A petition calling for the BBC to abandon a project pitting the unemployed and low-wage earners against each other in a “Hunger Games” style show has reached more than 12,000 signatures.
Supporters of the Change.org campaign, which describes the show as part of a disturbing trend of voyeuristic “poverty porn”, have been expressing their dismay at the Broadcaster’s plans.
“I find it disgusting that the BBC is fuelling the propaganda to ensure that people continue to believe that less well-off people are scroungers and no hopers,” wrote Sarah Williams from Combe Down.
Britain's Hardest Grafter invites people who are either unemployed or on the minimum wage to "prove themselves" through a range of "real-world job" challenges.
The person who has "produced the least" will be eliminated at the end of each episode before an eventual winner of a year's living wage outside of London (£15,000) is found.
Amanda Darling, from Stornaway, described the idea for the show as “a brutal, undignified travesty and a disgrace to the BBC.”
Another signatory, Aaron Close from Edinburgh, said the “disgusting and divisive ‘concept’ shouldn’t have passed the ‘ideas’ stage”, adding: “Even worse is the fact this is [being made] with public money.”
James Pauley, the petition’s author, wrote: “Unemployment and poverty are serious social issues and should not be the subject of a cheap game show format, designed to exploit some of the most impoverished in our society for the purposes of dubious ‘entertainment’.
“Not even the cheapest and tackiest of the cable or satellite channels have stooped to this level. We believe a higher standard should be expected from the BBC.”
Britain's Hardest Grafter seems to be following in the footsteps of controversial Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street, which explores the lives of residents dependent on social welfare in poor areas of Britain.
The BBC is seeking 25 British workers, a mix of the unemployed, the under-employed and those earning the minimum wage and applications are limited to those earning less than £15,500 per year.
A cash prize is on offer for the winner.
Plans for the show were first announced back in January by BBC Two controller Kim Shillinglaw and described as a five-episode series "exploring the front line of our nation's low wage economy".
"The series will tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time: why is British productivity low? Is the benefits system providing many with a reason not to work or hindering their working opportunity?" the official outline read.
"Is the hidden truth about immigrants simply that they work harder than Brits – and we need them as much as they need us - or are they simply prepared to work for a lower wage? And have the young simply not inherited the work ethic of older generations or have working conditions just got too hard? Who in Britain still knows how to graft? It’s time to find out."
The Independent approached the BBC for comment and was told that Britain's Hardest Grafter is in the "very early stages of production" and has been "misinterpreted" by website Graduate Fog, which was sent the advert.
"Britain's Hardest Grafter is a serious social experiment for BBC Two which investigates just how hard people in the low wage economy work," a spokesperson said.
"Each week the contributors - who are all in work or actively looking - will experience a different 'blue collar' role as the series explores the truth about Britain's work ethic. Throughout the series, the contributors are rewarded for the work they do."
Independent News Service