Channel 4 accused of exploiting rent

Shining a light on the murky world of two Glasgow rent boys has led Channel 4 into hot water.

Words: Stephen Naysmith

CHANNEL 4 HAS been accused of exploiting vulnerable young people in Chickens, a programme exposing the lives of two Glasgow rent boys.

Workers close to the rent scene also claim the Channel A programme could put young men in danger of attack.

The programrne’s producer has fiercely TCJQClCd the charges, stressing no one was coerced into taking part in It

Chickens is part of the series Too Much Too Young, which allows young people in extreme situations to talk abOut their lives in their own words.

The Glasgow episode, which focuses on Davrd, seventeen and Kammy, eighteen, will be broadcast on 1 September. Through the shocking programme they describe their lives as male prostitutes, their feelings about their sexuality and their fears of attack or even ‘.’l(‘i|(‘lll death

But Chickens - the word is slang on the gay scene for 'lres‘h meat’ or Virginal boys -- has caused anger and concern among groups working wrth rent boys.

Thomas Lusk is an outreach worker With the gay men's health project Phace West. He has seen the programme and described it as 'disgusting a horrendous abuse of vulnerable young people’.

He stressed that his Views were his own, not those of Phace West However, he added that many others had been angered by the programme’s treatment of the subject

'It is good that the rent scene is being highlighted, but it isn't lt( lping anyone to have an Intrusive TV company llf)(}t)lll() their lives as entertainment,’ he Scllti

Since a press launch in April, Kammy and Davrd have been reluctant to speak about the programme. Lusk says they had been shunned and hassled by others on the scene He believes programme makers took advantage of their naivete to produce a titillating story 'They are appealing to folks’ base desires using youngsters' misery and hardship,’ be said.

Channel 4 has also been accused of ’outing’ gay cruising areas Lusk fears filming in Glasgow’s more notorious pick-up spots is an open invitation to homophobic attacks ’Tbey were warned not to film there,’ be said ’People think if there is illegal activity


David and Kammy: risked breaking silence over Glasgow rent boy scene

going on they are entitled to engage in a spot of “queer-bashing".’

The producer of Chickens Maire Devine strongly defended its Content. ’We went to places that are well-known already,’ she said. ’We aren't giving anything away'

She also denied Kammy and David's na'i'vete was being exploited for entertainment. 'This is not entertainment at all,’ she said. ’I don’t think they were naive v- they wanted to tell their story.’

Nothing went into the programme that the boys ()t)]OCIC‘d to, she explained. 'We tried to be as honourable as we possibly could.’

Devme admitted the boys had taken exception to some of the attention they had received since making the programme. 'It probably hasn't been that easy for them, but as far as l’rn aware we haven’t fallen out.’

Barnardo’s Scotland works jointly with Phace West and Glasgow’s City Centre Initiative to target young men selling sex. Alice O’Flynn, project leader for Barnardo’s homelessness team, has not seen the film, but expressed misgiVings about it.

'This is a very dangerous area for young men to be involved in,' she said. ‘Breaking the silence around


that is risky for them. Programmes like this can be voyeuristic. If young people make statements they later regret, they can be doubly exposed.’

A study of Scotland’s rent boy scene by Glasgow University researchers Neil McKeganey and Marina Barnard found that, compared with female prostitutes, young men selling sex had little control over their work. Carried out in the early 19905, it found that rent boys were usually younger, and less able to negotiate a price or the use of condoms for safe sex.

O'Flynn argued that the programme might have been better to examine such issues around the male sex trade. 'Transactions often involve the offer of accommodation or food rather than money, and abuse can be a big factor,’ she said.

Devine insisted the programme, which contains no narration, was intended to be the boys’ story alone.

'We didn’t want to make a programme which painted all rent boys as victims,’ she said. 'I believe they were telling their story. Whether that is acceptable or not is up to the public at large.’

Chickens is on Channel 4 on 1 Sep.

And-finally . . . devolution for a fiver poses dilemma for kebab fans

Tony Blair is desperately trying to

ticket fraud at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition. Now Robert Wilmot, ex-head of conservation

claims the report's author Martin Whitfield while admitting that they remain ‘relatively well-mannered.‘

convince members of his favourite parish council that they won‘t have to dig too deep for the privilege of running their own affairs. Labour‘s digit dabblers have calculated that the original £41m cost of running an Edinburgh administration can be slashed to a mere £25m working out at £5 per head per annum. This leaves voters with a tricky choice - ‘Do I spend that fiver on a kebab on the way home or set it aside for self—determination? So where are the savings coming from? Perhaps out of the pockets of the country's students who are about to enter a new grant-free era? Welcome to the University Of Life.

TOUGH TIMES FOR Glasgow's cultural consumers. Glasgow Museums department is already facing investigations into alleged

has left with a parting shot: demoralised staff have been ‘bullied, intimidated and harassed,’ he claims. Still, at least the city’s art lovers have always got Mayfest to fall back on. Oops.

CULT TV MAGAZINE’s search for all- time fave kid‘s TV among 21 to 44 year-olds threw up a rejection of the latest ‘controversial‘ children‘s programme. Teletubbies - which. depending on the circles you move in seems to be based on either Harry Enfield‘s aliens or members of the shadow cabinet. Lala, Po. et a! lost out in favour of stoners‘ favourites such as Mr Benn, Bag’puss and the Magic Roundabout, thereby scuppering the theory that marijuana has a negative effect on the memory. Or confirming it.

Magic: nostalgia for kiddies‘ classics

RESEARCH FROM CycIeCity Guides indicates that Glasgow‘s drivers are among the worst in the UK for speeding and making life hell for pedallers. ‘Glasgow bus drivers seem intent on running you down,‘

So when you‘re somersaulting through the air after a bump from a number 62, at least you know the perpetrator will later enquire aimiably after your well-being.

YOU MIGHT BE safer at Ecotopia, a worldwide gathering of young environmental activists in Gowanbank, near Edinburgh next month. Their ‘ecological summer university‘ offers a chance for the young, green and single to try living sustainably for three weeks. All you need is sound advice on what to bring - ‘tent, sleeping bag . . . clean pants (underwear),‘ they suggest. What most concerns them about the site is ‘whether to turn a natural rock circle into a sauna or a bread oven.‘ And if they‘re not joking there‘s no reason for anyone else to. (Brian Donaldson)

25 Jul-7 Aug 1997 rumors