Protests have forced Channel 4 to cut Immigration Street from six episodes to just one.
The show’s predecessor, Benefits Street, caused a considerable stir last year, prompting politicians to criticise its alleged voyeurism.
The sequel focuses on immigrants and has faced renewed opposition, including claims from residents that they were misled about the nature of the show.
A number of threats have been aimed at Love Productions, the company behind the documentary, and protestors organised a large march through Southampton in January. The ill-feeling culminated in angry demonstrations outside Channel 4’s headquarters in London earlier this month.
Due to the vociferous backlash, the broadcaster has now decided to downgrade the six-part series to a one-off special.
Originally designed to cater to the weird and wacky margins of society, Channel 4 has since aligned its ethos with the desires of the market, aiming to capture ratings with addictive, and sometimes controversial, content.
Recent programming has focused on the downtrodden and the well-to-do – the sedentary equivalent of rubber-necking. Whether filled with incredulity or curiosity, viewers are drawn to docu-style reality TV that confirms underlying prejudices. Ressentiment, after all, plays a major part in a ‘connected’ contemporary culture, explaining the broad appeal of such shows.
Politically, the left tends to sympathise with immigrants and the underclass, whereas those on the right are less inclined to do so. With the general election around the corner, and immigration set to be a key topic, parties are grabbing any opportunity to make a point.
This climate has led to Immigration Street becoming an unlikely political battleground, with some on the right accusing the broadcaster of bias; they claim the decision to limit such a negative portrayal of immigration benefits left-wing parties.
In a concerted effort to appear impartial, Channel 4 will show a historical documentary next month called Immigration Street 1964, which focuses on anti-immigration sentiment.
Immigration Street is on Channel 4 at 10pm, Tuesday 24 February.