The battle for Struggle Street is heading to court as the documentary's filmmakers sue Blacktown's mayor

The Ashley family, who feature in Struggle Street. Image: SBS

The controversial SBS documentary Struggle Street, about the lives of people in the western Sydney suburb of Mt Druitt, is headed to court, with the makers of the three-part series suing Blacktown mayor Stephen Bali for defamation after he accused them of unethical behaviour, falsifying footage and helping participants buy drugs.

The Guardian Australia reports that the production company, Keo Films Australia, plans to launch legal action against the mayor over his claims.

Yesterday, Bali was part of a convoy of garbage trucks that picketed outside SBS in Sydney. He described the series as “publicly funded poverty porn” and called for it to be stopped from going to air.

The number of households on low incomes in Mt Druitt, 40km from the city CBD, is around 22% and higher than the Greater Sydney average. More than half the population were born overseas.

The mayor has given a series of media interviews in recent days in which he’s been outspoken in his criticism of the documentary, including claiming some scenes were made up, and that the crew provided money.

Mayor Bali wrote to SBS on Tuesday outlining his complaints. SBS responded in a letter to the mayor on Wednesday saying that the allegations he made were “serious, defamatory and damaging” and were “absolutely false”.

The first episode went to air on Wednesday night and was a record-breaking ratings winner for the multicultural broadcaster, which is planning to screen the next two one-hour episodes back-to-back next Wednesday night. It was the most-watched locally made program SBS has screened.

In an opinion piece for The Drum today, former NSW premier Nathan Rees, a lifelong western Sydney resident, said that “there are many more people dealing with even greater levels of chaos and hardship than shown on this SBS documentary” and that “it appears that reasonable concerns about fairness were largely unfounded”.

There’s more on the impending legal stoush here.

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