Bradford’s Common Good Network (CGN) has written to Love Productions warning of the “serious risk of perpetuating dangerous stereotyping” of the city in forthcoming Channel 4 series Making Bradford British.
The Network represents different communities and religious groups in the city and the letter, seen by Broadcast, is written by the Dean of Bradford Cathedral, David Ison.
It raises concerns that the life swap format could increase intercommunity tensions “at a time when Bradford has had some success in overcoming barriers and issues between people”.
The 2 x 60-minute programme, ordered by C4 head of documentaries Hamish Mykura, will see eight Bradford residents living together and swapping lives after failing the citizenship test.
The Network says the producer should focus on honest rather than sensational assessment of the communities, place contributors in the wider context of the communities, confront stereotypes and resist the temptation to discriminate on the basis of race, religion or class.
It goes on to warn that: “Television is a powerful medium… As programme-makers, you are doing something which risks alienating communities, but which could at best make a modest contribution to fostering greater understanding between different people.”
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which investigates the root causes of social problems, is also a member of the Network, as is racial justice and civil liberties organisation Just West Yorkshire.
Director Ratna Lachman said the programme “is doing exactly what the English Defence League is trying to do: create a divisive legacy. C4 is being socially irresponsible ordering this programme.”
C4 said it would be writing to the CGN to explain that the series will be a serious documentary project.
“It will not be sensationalist, but will play an important role in exploring cultural diversity in Britain. The series aims to overcome stereotypes and preconceptions – to uncover the shared values and common ground in what it means to be ‘British’.
“Issues of race, ethnicity and cultural differences are fundamental to national identity and we feel this is an important and timely opportunity to explore something high on the government’s agenda.”
The show is scheduled to go out in January 2012.