UK
13/02/2015 05:41 GMT | Updated 13/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Channel 4's 'Immigration Street' Cut To Just One Episode After 'Threats Of Violence' Against Crew

Channel 4 has been forced to cut down its controversial 'Immigration Street' programme amid "threats of violence" from people trying to stop it being broadcast.

The show was due to be a series but will now air as a one-off special, after the crew were forced to pull out because their safety could not be guaranteed, the broadcaster said.

The sequel to last year's equally contentious 'Benefits Street' prompted waves of protests from those who called it "racist", predicting it would demonise immigrants living in Derby Road, Southampton.

immigration street

Derby Road, Southampton

The basis for their claims was the six-part Benefits Street, which looked at benefits claimants in James Turner Street, Birmingham.

Its depiction of the street's struggling residents was described as "poison" by Owen Jones, "brilliant journalism" by The Spectator and "broadly sympathetic" by TV critic Charlie Brooker.

The show made a celebrity of James Turner Street resident White Dee, who has since reportedly been offered both her own cooking show and a rap contract.

benefits street

White Dee at her home in James Turner Street

After Benefits Street was broadcast, it was announced Love Productions, the makers of the show, had turned their attention to Derby Street, where 17% of the residents identified as "White British" at the last census.

Channel 4 said weeks of filming passed without incident but when news of it was made public, the crew suffered "verbal aggression" that turned into threats of violence and producers "reluctantly" decided to pull out.

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In a statement, the broadcaster said: "On the street itself verbal aggression was turning into threats of violence, finally the producers reluctantly took the decision to pull out, as the safety of the crew could no longer be guaranteed."

Kieran Smith, the show's executive producer, attended a meeting with residents of the street, in which he was "shouted down" while trying to reassure them, Channel 4 said.

He said: “Many people on Derby Road made the crew feel welcome and wanted to share their stories but there were local groups who, for their own reasons, were determined to halt production.

“It’s a great shame as the footage we have shot shows Derby Road is a place where, on the whole, people of different nationalities, cultures and religions respect and get along with each other. This will be reflected in the film.”

The show will now air as a one-hour special on February 24.

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Benefits Street

Ralph Lee, Channel 4's head of factual programming, said: “In filming Immigration Street the strength of feeling around the issue became apparent not just with the many local people who wanted to tell their stories in the film, but also the impassioned response of those opposing it.

“These experiences are shown first-hand in what is a fascinating insight into the sometimes inflammatory nature of the immigration debate. Examining these important issues and looking at the historical context and parallels, no matter how uncomfortable, is core Channel 4 public service territory."

Russell Brand said the Immigration Street would, like its predecessor, "remove any context that isn't amusing or entertaining", and highlighted the fact some of those who took part in Benefits Street received death threats and were vilified on social media.

immigration street protest

A protest against Immigration Street

In a recent episode of The Trews, he said: "Even the name, you can sense it's been conjured up to create controversy and viewers, I mean, that's the point of entertainment, isn't?

"As soon as you call it Immigration Street you're inviting a negative response. This is happening at a time in our society where these is evident fragility and tension and a degree of responsibility in the world of entertainment would be advisable."

A group of Southampton residents protested against Immigration Street, calling for it to be cancelled, outside Channel 4's headquarters last month.

Commentator Mo Ansar, who attended the protest, said: "We've seen with the Benefits Street programme and the programmes on Gypsy traveller communities that this sensationalist broadcasting results in prejudice.

"Both these communities have had backlashes. It fuels and feeds the far-right."