Rich TV. Poor TV: Work, Leisure and the Construction of "Deserved Inequality" in Contemporary Britain.

Wiliamson, Milly and Littler, Jo. 2017. Rich TV. Poor TV: Work, Leisure and the Construction of "Deserved Inequality" in Contemporary Britain. In: June Deery and Andrea Press, eds. Media and Class: TV, Film, and Digital Culture. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 146-161. ISBN 9781315387970 [Book Section]

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In January 2017, the UK ITV show This Morning featured a woman, Deborah Hodge, who had recently appeared on the Channel 5 reality TV show On Benefits. Phillip Schofield, one of the show’s presenters, told Hodge that it “quite frankly got my back up” that she had spent £10 on two bottles of Prosecco (fizzy Italian wine) at Christmas and was filmed saying “cheers to the taxpayer for my gift.” The incident was widely reported as Schofield losing his temper, with headlines including “Schofield blasts This Morning guest” and “Schofield hits out at mum” (Minn, 2017). The story and its wider amplification in the media worked on a number of discursive levels. It concertedly stoked pre-existing debate and moral panic about “benefits scroungers.” The arrival of this motif on a show previously distanced from such moral condemnation was itself an event marking the further encroaching of such discourse into the mainstream. Meanwhile, left commentatorsrelatively marginalized in the UK media landscape-pointed out that such “fauxrage” enabled moral posturing about the fecklessness of the poor. In the memorable words of Guardian columnist Phil McDuff, “even if they hung old sacks at their window in lieu of curtains and ate cold beans by the light of recycled candles” to save money, any pleasurable consumption would be considered frivolous waste. Such indignation, he writes, “is a vicious reaction against the poor’s presumptuous insistence on experiencing life as if they were as fully human as the rest of us” (McDuff, 2017). It was also pointed out that while the presenter Philip Schofield was castigating the unemployed about how they spent ten pounds, he was being paid a two-million-pound salary by ITV and had a private net worth valued at twelve million pounds (Singh, 2009; The Richest, 2017).

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August 2017Accepted
19 October 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

03 Oct 2017 12:45

Last Modified:

28 Mar 2024 16:24


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