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This is the first of two television programmes about a research project investigating discriminatory aspects of council house allocation in Birmingham. Previous research has shown that black and wo...rking class people tend to get poorer quality housing in the least desirable areas. This programme shows the use of the ethnographic technique to study the allocation process within the housing department. Ethnography involves the use of a variety of methods including participant observation, semi-structured and unstructured interviews and 'just hanging around' all of which are clearly shown here. The aim is to try to reconstruct the culture of the housing department and so to discover how housing officers view different sorts of tenants and how discretion is exercised.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: D207, An introduction to sociology
Item code: D207; 07
First transmission date: 07-06-1981
Published: 1981
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:33
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Producer: Nell Smith
Contributors: Valerie Karn; Jeff Henderson; Bill Brown; Dick Empson
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Birmingham; Decision making; Housing policy; Sociology
Footage description: The programme begins with a written text explaining the objectives of the research. Over a map of Birmingham Valerie Karn explains how black people are affected by the geographical location of council housing. Over shots of different estates she talks about the wide contrasts between council houses in different areas. Jeff Henderson talks about the ethnographic methods used in the research. Shots of people at work in the housing office. There follows an example of one of the methods employed, a semi-structured interview. Valerie Karn talks to Mr Westlake, Chief Housing Officer, about the problems of matching provision of housing with the expectations and requirements of applicants. Jeff Henderson, in another semi-structured interview, talks with a housing officer about the mechanics of the allocation process. Jeff Henderson is then shown acting as an observer during an interview by a housing visitor with a young married couple who have just applied to be put on the council list. In a voiceover he talks about the significance of the observation technique. Jeff Henderson and Bill Brown talk to the Assistant Housing Officer about the points allocation system. They discuss the use of the computer to select appropriate candidates for available housing. Jeff Henderson sits in with the allocation control officer as she uses the computer to allocate a house. He then questions housing officials about reasons why a suitable candidate, as selected by the computer, might not be offered a vacant property. As an example of observation techniques, Jeff is shown sitting in on an interview as an offer of a flat is made to a prospective tenant. Bill Brown questions a housing officer about the scope for individual decision-making within the allocation process. Jeff is shown working in the housing office, asking a colleague about an awkward case that doesn't fit exactly into the pattern of rules. Shots of routine work in the housing office. In voiceover Jeff describes the research value of participating in the office routines. Bill Brown discusses with a housing officer the action taken about homeless people. Shots of a black woman being interviewed. Jeff Henderson talks to a housing officer about the problems created by having a wide range of housing, some of which is more popular than others. Shots of a housing visitor interview. Dick Empson, Housing Aid Officer, criticises the Council's housing policy for being too mysterious and inaccessible.
Production number: FOUD061L
Videofinder number: 36
Available to public: no