A senior Channel 4 executive has defended “poverty porn” documentaries like Benefits Street, saying the broadcaster did not have any “malign intent” in making the programmes.

The second series of Benefits Street is being filmed in Stockton-on-Tees and will broadcast next year, with the first series earlier this year having become Channel 4’s biggest ratings hit since 2012.

Next month it will also broadcast the second series of Skint, filmed in Grimsby, and there’s a separate documentary, Immigration Street, in production.

The first series of Benefits Street was Channel 4 most popular show since 2012

The first series of Benefits Street was Channel 4 most popular show since 2012

While admitting that the negative publicity surrounding the programmes had made it harder for the broadcaster to film the series, Ralph Lee, its deputy chief creative officer and head of factual, told the Guardian that they were simply telling stories of the “distressed parts of our society”.

“[The backlash] did have an impact on how easy it was to go out and make these documentaries,” he said.

“We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes. In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that. I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”

Lee added that it was a “real shame” that some had tried to obstruct the filming of the documentaries.

“Some are very happy to show their lives, others less so, and those who aren’t have received a lot of support and encouragement from everyone from the local MP to community groups,” he said.

“Rather than just close the door and ignore it, people have tried to obstruct it. That’s a real shame. They seem to assume there is a malign intent, a guaranteed negative impact of trying to tell the story about immigration and integration. We don’t have a malign intention; there isn’t an agenda.”