Friday, 28 October 2011

Complaint to the BBC re Humphries #TFSOWWJH by @ClaireOT

Here is the text of my complaint. I am happy for you to cut and paste it in whole or in part in order to submit your own complaint. Let’s share out the spoons…
“Beveridge… helped to create a different sort of monster in its place: the age of entitlement. The battle for his successors is to bring it to an end.” John Humphries, reported in the Mail. What is this evidence for an age of entitlement? It would seem that this is an assertion reported as fact- which is a real failure of investigative journalism in an age when in half an hour I have researched the facts regarding this issue in the UK today.
Humphries visits Cardiff in the documentary, and notes “one in four people of working age in this area are now living on benefits”. (The figure was 24% as of February 2011). He doesn’t mention is it is quite exceptional for such a large share of working age people in an area to be on benefits: this is the case in only 5% of wards in Great Britain. This is a serious error in the form of bias, and a poor choice of case study for inclusion in such a documentary. The implication, that people are “swindling” the system, is offensive to people who are reliant on state support.
Humphries states several times that numbers of claimants of incapacity benefit have grown steadily. He is wrong. In 1999, some 9.5 per cent of wards had 24% or more working age residents on benefits. In 2007, before the recession, this had fallen to 3.7 per cent. This would suggest concentrations of benefit receipt are highly responsive to labour market conditions: the opposite of what is suggested by the ‘welfare dependency’ theory. This is clear evidence of poor research, factual inaccuracy in reportage, and bias in reporting. It is offensive to claimants of welfare support. Humphries visits a GP in the documentary. “What does she think of the statistics that say there are 2.5m people too sick to work? Unbelievable, she says. Literally unbelievable.” We all know how statistics, baldly stated, can mislead us and seduce us into believing our prejudices, our “evidence” from anecdotes are true representatives of fact. They very rarely are. That is why we use research methods to eliminate or account for bias.
52 per cent of people claiming sickness benefit (Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance) are disabled. We know this because they are also receiving Disability Living Allowance, which we know has a very low rate of fraud (less than 0.5%). Humphries has shown poor choice of question for this participant- one that reflects his bias, and which misrepresents myth and anecdote about claiming benefits for fact. This shows a poor standard of interviewing, bias, and factual misrepresentation. It is offensive to benefit recipients.
Among the rest of the sickness benefit caseload, receipt has been falling for years without the use of tough sanctions on claimants or benefit cuts – the opposite of what the “dependency” theory would lead us to expect. Humphries makes no mention of this very salient fact in his documentary- which shows poor standard of presenting, bias, inaccuracy, and gives offence. Lone parent employment rates fell from 60% at the end of the 1970s to 44% by the mid-1990s and then rose steadily, reaching 58% today. We can see that this has not followed the expected direction of travel were “a dependency culture” to blame. Again, clear evidence of bias, factual misrepresentation, and poor standards of presentation.
“In my decades of reporting politics I have never before seen the sort of political consensus on the benefits system that we seem to be approaching now.” Here, Humphries appears to be delivering a right-wing thesis on an imagined problem of “welfare dependency” within documentary format. It is a very poor reflection of the supposed impartiality and balance of reportage which I would expect from the BBC. In light of this, I demand that disabled people and their representatives, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, or other suitably qualified people are provided with the opportunity to make a point-by-point rebuttal in a similar time slot.
Many figures in this complaint have been taken from:

edit: To make a complaint, you need to fill out this form on the BBC website.


Coffeecup said...

I was appalled by the biased representations made by John Humphreys in last nights programme too. The people featured I'm sure, were hardly a true and fair representation of the majority of people in receipt of benefits. Yes the man who chose to stay home with his children because the mininum wage was too low in his opinion annoyed me, but this is the point, it was designed to! What about a broad selection of interviews and cases from across the entire country? He does not speak for everyone and yet that the impression made. Dreadfully unfair!

Where were the interviews with genuine incapacity claimants fearing that they will not be believed when the switch to ESA happens? Long term conditions do not change. The lady with ME probably had suffered for years and might not recover in the next six months as Humphreys suggested. He could have spoken to any number of people with chronic illnesses and disabilities which would have conveyed a truer and more compassionate message.

Bit of a disgrace from the BBC. Came across like a party political propaganda broadcast for the Coalition. Not ALL of us are scroungers, and I for one do not wish to be representated as such. Most upsetting!

Anonymous said...

Why did the BBC not report the Hardest Hit protests to show the real suffering of the disabled under these "reforms" in the interests of editorial balance?

Sam Barnett-Cormack said...

I'm torn. I want to join in complaints, but I don't feel I can do so in good conscience without seeing the program. However, I don't think watching it will impact positively on the mental health of my partner and me. If I do watch it, I suspect I will do so on iPlayer on my PC rather than on the Wii, as I doubt my partner will be willing to have it on. Should I do this? Will I make a difference? It's a difficult question of conscience.

On the subject though, can anyone tell me when it was on and how it was billed, to facilitate me finding it on whichever iPlayer I use?

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch it I've been bashed around for the past 30 years by the DWP and to watch a program like that would do nothing at all for my mental state
You need program's like that like you need a hole in the head

John if your reading this blog come over to see me if you've then got the guts to deal with the REAL situation ?

You cant film ATOS as they have the power to destroy the life of anyone they see fit surely John a educated man like yourself knows this so why ask ?

As a journalist John a piece of advice do your own research you must have known of this blog ? for a good starting point for the programme to be based on in the first place ?

If you haven't heard of it John your just a fool your like the people when asked do they watch EastEnders and always say no i dont watch that rubbish when of course they do that's why it's number one for viewing

I think you should retire John get out while the goings good

Your job is to get to the heart of the matter and get stuck in not just tinker on the outside like so very often journalists do and regretfully John all you did so i have been told is like you've always done and that's cut corners

Visually Impaired said...

A shocking hatchet job by the beed and john humphrys i thought he had more journalistic integrity than this.

I have made my complaint and will let you know if anything happens.

sorry about the posting of a link but this site also had a good go at the programme.

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