SBS Struggle Street series sparks audience anger

FARTING, drug dealers, graffiti and a woman smoking a joint.

It is the unflattering one-minute 49-second picture of Sydney's western suburbs that has Australians up in arms.

Almost 1000 people have signed a petition urging the SBS to drop its Struggle Street series.

On Sunday, the nation's multicultural broadcaster removed all traces of the Struggle Street promotional video from its Facebook and internet sites.

Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali says the three-part series, which is due to air from Wednesday MAY 6, is "publicly-funded poverty porn" that shows Mount Druitt residents in the worst possible light.

According to the SBS, the one-hour episodes recognised and provided "a voice to a segment of society who are living through immense hardship".

The promotional video showed a man with dementia farting and delivering a tirade on drug dealers, a resident calling her cat degrading names, a woman smoking what seemed to be a marijuana joint and a house covered in graffiti.

The show's cameras spent six months following 10 Mount Druitt locals.

The suburb is in the Blacktown local government area.

"This isn't a documentary, it is publicly-funded poverty porn," Cr Bali said.

"Local residents feel they were lied to about what this documentary was about.

"Already I've heard reports of participants being bullied, vilified, and in some cases considering moving away from the area completely and the program hasn't even run yet."

He urged Australians to sign the petition calling for the show to be canned.

"SBS must immediately suspend the planned broadcast, ensure the participants are shown the documentary in full, and make sure their views are included before any footage goes to air," Cr Bali said of the Blacktown City Council-backed petition.

He said the SBS and production company Keo Films refused to allow participants a viewing of the full series.

Cr Bali wrote to SBS with his concerns after watching the first episode - which he said also degraded indigenous Australians.

"There's only one Aboriginal person I saw portrayed in the film, and he's living in a humpy killing animals with a sling-shot and cooking birds," Cr Bali told Fairfax Media.

"It's like we've stepped back 200 years in the white man's treatment of Aboriginal rights."

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid told media on Friday the SBS would remove the video as a goodwill gesture.

"SBS commissioned Keo Films to produce Struggle Street, with the intent of providing a voice to a segment of society who are living through immense hardship caused by multiple factors like unemployment, teenage pregnancy, family dysfunction, physical and mental illness, and alcohol/drug abuse," a SBS spokesperson said.

"Struggle Street explores these lives from a very personal perspective.

"People and families living in circumstances similar to those depicted in the documentary are located in a wide range of locations across Australia and this is not at all a series which seeks to be representative of Mount Druitt as a suburb.

"However for the documentary to be believable, it cannot be devoid of a place setting."

SBS said it was committed to supporting the show's participants.

"This is a challenging series and in the lead up to the broadcast of Struggle Street, we continue to be focused on working closely with, and supporting participants of this documentary, as well as liaising with community leaders," the spokesperson said.

"We take our responsibilities in supporting the participants very seriously."


Topics:  editors picks petition sbs television

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