Despite demands for it not to go to air, SBS’s controversial three-part documentary about a housing estate in western Sydney, Struggle Street, has fared particularly well for the public broadcaster in last night’s debut.
The show opened to an audience of 935,000 metro viewers according to last night’s Oztam figures and it’s clear the brouhaha leading up to the doco has proven a PR bonanza.
The series had been branded as “poverty porn” as it only focused on people on welfare in the suburb of Mount Druitt and ignored the area’s burgeoning middle-class.
Yesterday, the local Blacktown Council blockaded SBS HQ with a stream of garbage trucks as a protest against the show, however, the broadcaster proved unrepentant.
The Mayor of Blacktown, Stephen Bali, reportedly wrote to SBS saying he believed the show misrepresented the area and it was factually incorrect.
SBS reportedly investigated Bali’s claims and found none of them to be true.
Bali believed the program was “not a documentary” and called it “publicly-funded poverty porn”.
It was Bali’s idea to blockade SBS’s head office in Artarmon in Sydney yesterday with the council’s garbage trucks. “The program is garbage so we brought garbage trucks here,” he told the media throng who’d assembled for the well-publicised stunt. He believed the program was merely a cynical attack on working-class people.
Yesterday, SBS’s chief content officer, Helen Kellie, said of the controversial series: “We are confident that Struggle Street is a fair and accurate portrayal of events that occurred during filming. Further, we believe the series fairly reflects the program description contained in participant release forms.”
Kellie agreed the documentary – that took six months to film – was a raw depiction of the area but depicted it fairly.
“This is not a sugar-coated version of people’s lives,” she said. “These are people who are living with real disadvantage.”
The show – which covers such topics as domestic violence, drug use and teen pregnancies – has been slammed by the participants in it for portraying the families as welfare-dependant hicks.
“I hate being called a houso, I hate being called a bogan, and I will not stand for my family being attacked,” one participant told Fairfax Media.
It has also been reported in The Guardian that some of the participants are so aggrieved at how they’ve been portrayed that they have sort legal advice regarding a possible defamation case.