HEALTH chiefs have slammed the filming of a controversial documentary TV series in Southampton over fears for the health of vulnerable residents.
GPs have condemned Channel 4’s Immigration Street, which will focus on the lives of people living in Derby Road, and said it would “cynically exploit” the vulnerability of some residents and tear apart a “harmonious, diverse and thriving” community.
As reported by the Daily Echo, plans were first revealed in April this year to film a sequel to the hit series Benefits Street – which prompted criticism for how it portrayed people on benefits – and producers were focusing on Southampton.
Earlier this week scores of local people gathered to vent their anger at TV company Love Productions, who are behind the six-part series which is set to air next year.
Their concerns centred on the belief that the programme name is racist and does not accurately describe the people who live in Derby Road.
Angry residents held banners urging the firm to drop the programme and “go home” and were backed by local councillors and MPs.
Now health chiefs have added their weight to the calls saying the harm it will cause far outweighs any public interest.
Bitterne GP Steve Townsend, below, chair of the Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We wholeheartedly support the local community in its condemnation of the programme especially as the potential harm it will do will outweigh any public interest.”
And his chief executive John Richards, below, added: “I am deeply concerned to hear examples of how some people had already been lured into taking part having been provided with misleading and inadequate information by the film crews.
"It is apparent that little regard has been given to the vulnerability of some people in and around Derby Road who have been targeted to participate.”
Their thoughts were echoed by GP David Paynton, below, from the area’s Nicholstown Surgery.
He said: “As a local doctor who understands this community I am very concerned about the risks to my patients if they are approached by the film crews. I am not convinced that any credible safeguards have been put in place to minimise such risks.”
Last night a spokesman for Love Productions said: “We strongly reject any suggestion producers have misled contributors or targeted vulnerable people. Love Productions’ duty of care protocols were praised by Ofcom in the regulator’s recent decision not to uphold any complaints about Benefits Street and all filming on this series is in accordance with the Broadcasting Code.
“Producers have spent several months getting to know the community and have spoken to council leaders. A range of residents are keen to share their stories and the series will represent contributors’ lives and status fairly and accurately – with only those who have given their informed consent featuring in the series.”