What happened to Channel 5's Bailiffs?
Once a popular tv show "Can't pay, we'll take it away", Channel 5's Bailiffs program ran for 5 series. But then suddenly disappeared, here is why.
The program initially started in 2014; the makers claimed that it would provide an insight into the life of those who either would not or could not pay their debts. The format was simple, camera crew + bailiffs = reality tv entertainment.
Our view was that we were never really comfortable with the show. It wasn't about the rest of the public learning anything of the lives of the individuals involved. In truth, we felt it was more like a Victorian freak show where people would stare at those who were in trouble and be grateful it wasn't them.
So what went wrong?
Well, people started to post clips on Youtube of their investigations into individual bailiffs involved and the collection company DCBL. What they found wasn't pretty. It's not for us to repeat those findings, but they are well worth taking 5 minutes of your time to search the internet. Some of the clips showed the bailiffs forcing their way into the wrong homes, assaulting individuals and burglarising properties.
Needless to say that none of these freely available clips ever made it to air. The whole show was based on selective editing and false narratives. It wasn't fake, but it was manipulated and edited so that what was shown was not a true reflection.
Channel 5 knew one thing because the people involved were in financial distress; they were unlikely to be able to bring expensive court proceedings to fight back. Well, sadly for them, that flawed thinking was wrong.
In 2015, the show aired an episode that contained footage of Mr Ali and his family being evicted from their home. Mr Ali complained that his privacy had been infringed as he had never consented to the filming. Mr Ali first complained to Channel 5, then later to a Civil Court after Channel 5 and Brinkworth Productions dismissed his claim.
During the civil trial, unaired footage from the show was shown to the court. It revealed enforcement agents actively engaged in a pre-arranged plan to agitate differences between Mr Ali (tenant) and his landlord on the basis that it would make "good tv". The Judge found in Mr Ali's favour and awarded him £20,000.
At the risk of further court orders, the show ceased making any new episodes and has most likely been put in the bin. It is unknown if wither Channel 5 or Brinkworth now face historical claims against them for breaches of privacy. We think there are grounds and now clear precedent for people previously included in the show to take legal action.
We are glad to see the back of it. Debt and financial problems can happen to any of us at any time. On average most of us are just 2-3 paydays away from being homeless. The last thing any of us want is a tv crew turning up, stirring up trouble and then selectively editing footage to make the situation worse and then showing it to millions as some kind of sport.
We think the public also took that view as the viewing figures dropped off dramatically after the first two episodes.