Is a name I've coined for a certain genre of programmes that over recent years Channel 4 has completely cornered the market in.
Basically, the programmes claim to be documentaries or serieses of documentaries in which camera crews and interviewers trail round gruesome post-industrial hellscapes, usually in the Midlands or North East England because they have the most comedic accents (though occasionally they'll venture into the rougher parts of London or Glasgow, and in the latter case expect viewer comments about wildlings) following the locals on their day to day business or trying to accomplish a certain goal. Inevitably, lingering shots will be indulged in over dogs on string, things that are in disrepair, boarded up houses and shops, anti social behaviour, and people basically demeaning themselves for money. Failure is inevitable, as are tears, the unleashing of which represents the money shot and is always accompanied by Sad Piano Music and lots of zooming in.
The reason why they're made, though, is simple - ratings.
On the one hand, you've got the hand-wringing Guardianista crowd, who will watch it and be utterly appalled by the "exploitation" of "the vulnerable in society" but still tune in every week so they can continue to cast down newsprint anathemas on the producers and grumble and mutter about how if only people had voted Labour last time round they wouldn't be driven to prostituting themselves in this manner. Then there's the Daily Mail readers and the Sir Bufton Tufton crowd who watch it so they can be appalled and write snotty letters to their MP about how they as honest taxpayers are being exploited by these people who have only themselves to blame. Both watch every week and thus more such programmes are commissioned. They're also cheap to make as well, costing roughly one camera crew, a spot of editing, and a narrator. So, trebles all round, folks!
The archetypal poverty porn programme is, of course, Benefits Street, in which the camera crew went to James Turner Street in Handsworth in Birmingham and made flash-in-the-pan celebrities out of the various characters on the programme. The last episode of which was followed by a "debate" on the merits of the programme being made which was basically a way for C4 to escape the wrath of Ofcom by pretending it was public interest journalism, and not pointing and laughing at the paups for ratings. There's also Benefits Brits by the Sea which is the same but in deprived seaside communities, where most of the work is seasonal and there's bugger all else there (i.e. places like Torquay, Clacton, Blackpool, and similar "holidaying in Britain" locales). Then there's Channel 5's efforts with Can't Pay, We'll Take it Away which follows the adventures of Court bailiffs trying to enforce judgements against non-payers. To be fair there's a genuine mix of hard luck stories as well as genuine dodgemeisters on that one though. Also there's Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords also on Channel 5.
Poverty porn is basically depressing, exploitative nonsense. I avoid it where possible.