When Poverty becomes entertainment

I try not to watch kids TV in the morning but have to admit that Crazy Town is an awesome programme to inspire kids to exercise, get on with each other and eat nutritional food.

However, I was appalled by a 10min film on this morning’s Milkshake programme entitled ‘PLAY’, broadcast on Channel 5 (UK) at 6:45am. It went something like this…

Imagine a grey concreted street in India. The sun shines yet kids roam the streets watching their mothers use large steel bowls to wash their or others clothes.

The camera focuses on hose pipes ejecting clean water then slowly moves into a wide angle shot to reveal the inside of peoples homes… concrete shells.

The voice-over narrative then starts with a gentle female voice talking about how a child has just had a wash. The mother wraps the child in a thin grey towel hugging her to keep her warm.

The next scene shows a naked child, possibly no older the 2 years old walking towards another mother. The child blinks slightly and then points to her mother. This mother is crouching down pulling out cloths and then beating them to the ground to rinse out germs.

The voice over narrative resumes suggesting that the child is now joining her mother to wash clothes and how fun it is.

The video continues to communicate what the children depicted must be thinking, adding further tones of fun on what looks like a desperate situation…

At the end the context is left unclear.

  • Why are they washing their streets in public in such a way?
  • Is this acceptable for people who live in these countries?
  • Should we as society show these images as reality with a subtext of apathy?
  • Are the women aware that they are being filmed?
  • What kind of message is this video communicating to a child – That poverty is a matter of fact and that nothing can be done to help change?
  • The programme is called, ‘PLAY!’ – Sadly, I was left in shock thinking about the 75% of people in that country that are still trying to eat.
  • Yes, we know nothing of the circumstances of the people featured but they clearly do not have what some of the other people have who live in India, i.e: Washing machines…

The following is what I sent to OFCOM today as a note of concern/complaint:

As humanity we need to strive to make poverty history. However, narrating to a child through 10mins of people washing their cloths on the streets of India has the potential to condition children to accept poverty. For youngsters this kind of portrayal is damaging and does not help in motivating change.

I also suggested…

Next steps:

I think the producers of this programme need to question their motives in potentially promoting poverty in such an apathetic way.

Categories: 2008, Anti-Poverty, Media Watch


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