benefits street
Fans of Benefits Street pose with the James Turner Street location street signChannel 4

Fans of the controversial Channel 4 programme Benefits Street have turned the area into an unlikely tourist spot, with people lining up to have their photo taken next to the James Turner Street sign.

The documentary series, which has been accused of stirring up hatred against benefit claimants and promoting criminal activity, follows the lives of residents on the street in Birmingham where nine out of 10 people claim welfare payments.

Viewers of the show have started a trend of posing for pictures next to the street sign where the show is filmed and posted them online.

The show has attracted a huge amount of criticism over claims that it shows an unfair and offensive representation of what life is like on welfare as well as stirring antagonism against claimants.

More than 18,000 people have signed a petition of the website urging Channel 4 to make a donation to a relevant charity because of the harm they say has been caused by its broadcast.

Arshad Mahood, who started the petition, said: "The programme tried to show that 90% of people living on the street are on benefits of some sort. Within minutes people took to Facebook and Twitter with comments like 'I'd go down this street with a baseball bat'.

"Having lived in Birmingham, not far from where the programme was made, I can honestly say this show is not representative of people in the area.

"This is not a responsible approach by a public service broadcaster."

Ofcom said that it had received nearly 300 complaints from viewers after the first episode. Complaints were made about alleged criminal activity and excessive bad language in the programme with some saying that it unfairly portrayed benefit claimants.

Some of those featured in the programme accused the filmmakers of tricking them into appearing on the programme, claiming that the show was actually about community spirit.

Channel 4 said that the series, which was filmed over a year, was "a fair reflection" on life on benefits. It was a "a sympathetic, humane and objective portrayal of how people are coping with continuing austerity and cuts", claimed show producers.

Addressing the criminal behaviour in the programme, a spokesperson for the channel added: "The production crew were filming in a purely observational capacity - at no stage was criminal behaviour encouraged or condoned.

"All contributors were briefed that if they carried out criminal activity on camera this could result in criminal investigations after broadcast."