Thursday, June 30, 2011

SNP MSPs brand BBC's The Scheme 'tabloid TV', it is more than that, its all about producing a narrative that the working class are trash

Dear All

One of the things about television which is disgraceful is that working class is always portrayed for the most part as scum.

To that end we have programmes such as "Saints and Scroungers" and the “The scheme”.

If you are middle class then you get ‘A place in the sun’, 'location, location, location' with the affluent middle class deciding whether to buy million pound homes.

You don’t see Phil and Kirsty doing a programme about some poor person trying to get a council house.

And the shit they usually get offered is in a war zone or gerrymandered ghetto.

SNP MSPs have accused the BBC of exploiting vulnerable people in its hit TV documentary "The Scheme".

The series focussed on the lives of families living in Onthank, Kilmarnock, an area affected by social issues including drink and drug problems.

Kilmarnock SNP MSP Willie Coffey has branded the show "tabloid TV at its worst", during a Holyrood debate.

Despite the criticism, MSPs also recognised the programme had highlighted important issues.

Which they should already know if they do activism in their communities!

BBC Scotland said The Scheme was the station's best performing documentary in the past 10 years.

The reason is because it is car crash TV, the scheme isn’t helping these people, but it does show that these people are the people that middle class politicians ignore unless there is an election.

These people despite what anyone says are the people who are left behind, forgotten and not helped.

Willie Coffey is right when he said the programme had dangerously exposed people already at risk, "for nothing more than public entertainment".

To prove his point Mr Coffey told how the local children's football team had been "jeered" and called "the scheme team", as a result of the series.

He added:

"The programme-makers are clearly in business to make money, and they certainly did that, on the back of some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland, especially as they were able to sell the programme for broadcast outside Scotland."

Another SNP MSP, Margaret Burgess, a former citizens advice worker who previously worked with Onthank residents, said the community "did not deserve to be treated the way they have been by the BBC.

And she added:

"People were exploited. The programme did highlight some important issues around drugs, alcohol and deprivation, issues which society needs to know about and issues they we've got to address, so I don't have an argument with the BBC there."

Tory MSP Ruth Davidson, a former BBC Scotland journalist, said she had never watched The Scheme, telling parliament:

"I also agree that it sounded like tabloid television at its worst and also poverty pornography, as it's been called in a number of newspapers."

Davidson went on:

"When we look at this programme and we look at it in the round, what it has done in Scotland is promote a debate.

The debate being how detached from the problems of the working class she is, she doesn’t give a shit about people like this, and everytime she stands for election she gets defeated.

She is using the list system to get elected, because she is publicly unelectable.

Davidson is a Holyrood ‘schemer.’

Unfortunately, the Holyrood debate was attended by about only 10 MSPs and featured no contributions from Labour or the Lib Dems.

Ewan Angus, head of TV commissioning for BBC Scotland said The Scheme, which attracted about 70 viewer complaints, did not set out to present a definitive portrait, but helped inform and stimulate a wider debate on a range of issues.

This programme is all about finding people at the bottom of society and setting them on a virtual anthill for others to watch through the glass.

The opportunity to watch them stumble and fall through life in the relatively comfort and safety of an armchair knowing that no matter what way they turn they are never going to get on.

That is what ‘The scheme’ is all about.

To say it did not set out to present a definitive portrait is middle class patronising shite.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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