Saturday, 28 June 2014

What news?

I haven't been able to blog for a while.  But now, looking over what's been happening, I have to conclude that nothing is changing, except for the worse.  Iain Duncan Smith has lost another court battle, this time to keep secret the damaging documents on the mess that is Universal Credit.  But it won't make any difference.  The ruling will be ignored.  The Financial Times devoted an article to Labour's intentions on outsourcing and the Work Programme.  They would get rid of the big, centrally organised contracts and devolve the responsibility down to a more local level.  This is similar to the system which operated up to 2006.  But Rachel Reeves said nothing about payment by results.  She did say that outsourcing companies would have to pay their workers more than minimum wage.
Labour has forced a debate in the Commons next Monday on the shambles in the DWP.  Expect no Tories except the minister to attend, and certainly expect no coverage at all in the media.
And that brings me to the growing concern about BBC bias.  A friend of mine - intelligent, thoughtful, well-informed - was completely unaware that a peaceful demonstration by around 50,000 people against austerity had happened in central London.  Like many other people (reportedly a majority) she relies on the BBC for news; and the BBC didn't report it, until very late and then as a tiny item.  If there is political bias in the BBC it matters far more than the built-in ideology of the printed media.
It used to be said - and still is by right-wingers - that the BBC is biased towards the left.  That can't be sustained any longer.  We know that in 2010 Mark Thompson, then head of the BBC, had a meeting with David Cameron in 10 Downing Street and agreed not to attack the new government's approach.  Four years on we see Conservatives and their agenda dominating.  Remember that the BBC decides what is news.  Producers or editors choose what to put in their bulletins, what items to include in politics programmes, who to interview and what approach to take.  If they don't report something, most people won't know about it.
In the run-up to the May elections people began to complain about the amount of coverage that UKIP was getting.  This apparent determination to promote UKIP was also evident in the aftermath of those elections.  Of course, the BBC spokespeople, as well as individual editors, insisted that they had merely given "parity" to the various parties, based on their electoral support.  It was nonsense, because it wasn't the issue.  UKIP and its policies were being allowed to set the agenda; immigration and Europe dominated.  After the elections one would have thought, from the BBC's coverage, that UKIP had beaten Labour, and the Tories hadn't actually taken part.
One could understand, though not excuse, the reluctance of the BBC to cover issues related to the DWP.  But this dodging of issues extends across many areas of government business.  When did we last hear an analysis of what's going on in the NHS?  In Justice?  And when did we last hear an opposition spokesperson interviewed with the same respect and deference accorded to the government?
Tory-supporting presenters and interviewers now no longer have to pretend to neutrality.  Andrew Neil will tear into Labour MPs, talking over them, sneering at them; the contempt is very obvious.  The Tory MPs with whom he dines get a very different treatment.  Andrew Marr and John Humphrys are not much better.
Before you say that this has nothing to do with the subject of this blog, think again.  If you rely on the BBC for your knowledge of what's going on in this country then you will have a very limited and partial view.  You will know nothing about A4e and only a little about the other outsourcing companies.  You will not understand the inherent dangers of outsourcing and privatisation.  And we will wake up in May 2015 to a majority Conservative government which will complete the flogging-off of all our public services for private profit.


  1. I have posted many times on here about the biased reporting of the BBC. I am not going to repeat myself expect to say this - the bias is not necessarily what they say or report on but what they ignore. The BBC ducks controversial issues that may damage the Tory government. They think they then cannot be accused of bias (because they have offered no opinion) but any intelligent person would argue that IGNORANCE IS NO DEFENCE.

  2. See No Evil,Speak No Evil,Hear No Evil......I think it might be policy by now.

  3. The BBC is now almost the equivalent of China's CCTV.

  4. Little wonder some refuse to pay the licence fee!

    The Chinese have an old saying - ''may you live in interesting times''. Perhaps a curse as much as a saying. For these are dangerous times for democracy in Britain. On the one hand we have praise lavished on the royal family by a media incl. the BBC fixated with sycophantic royal non-stories. And on the other a BBC wilfully ignoring the crisis within the DWP and welfare issues in general.

    There are a couple of bright spots. BBC Newsnight looked into A4e and BBC R 4 looks at welfare issues occasionally.

    However, there does seem to be a climate of fear. Look at the recent Question Time episode with the odious Iain Duncan Smith as a guest. Not ONE question directly put to him about his disastrous stewardship of his department.

    I was invited to take part in a BBC R5 Live phone in on MWA (Mandatory Work Activity) aka Workfare. The researcher I spoke to pleaded and practically begged me not to refer to the scheme as workfare.

    People need a voice more than ever. Sadly, some increasingly see parties such as UKIP as the means to provide this voice.

    As I have said before, we are witnessing and experiencing the worst political class in more than a generation.

  5. "BBC Newsnight looked into A4e" - not really. If you're thinking of the story of Emma Harrison's £8.6m, the BBC actually refused to mention it for a week.

    1. What I meant was they at least mentioned A4e's woes. It was absent on the rest of the BBC.

  6. Interesting Guardian Article on IDS
    "The minister's reluctance to abandon his disastrous Work Programme is further proof of his pig-headedness"
    Article here

  7. FWIW, the majority of the UK’s working-age population have never had to rely on Benefits. The BBC can’t be blamed for deciding that it is not their role to spend masses of time on issues that have zero relevance to or interest for the majority.

    The Guardian article mentioned by Gissajob is well worth reading.

    Sir Leigh Lewis retired as Permanent Secretary of the DWP in 2011.. He had immense & relevant experience:

    It is widely rumoured that Leigh Lewis tried to restrain IDS’ flaky ideas during 2010/2011 but that IDS shouted him down about everything, all the time.

    In 2011 Leigh Lewis was replaced by Robert Devereux, who has never known anything that is relevant to the DWP:

    I strongly suspect that Devereux fell for impossible-to-do nonsense from IDS in 2011. IDS then shafted Devereux publicly as soon as IDS couldn’t keep denying hard facts about his disastrously ineffective, unworkable, idiotically money-wasting “Welfare Reform” theories. In Devereux’s shoes, I would stop trying to defend and protect IDS. Maybe that is what has happened?

    It is impossible that Devereux and his senior colleagues haven’t realized thatI DS is an irrational, dangerous menace to every other person in his path. However, Cameron is frightened of IDS and his tantrums. Also, Cameron seems unwilling to dump the walking advert for UKIP that IDS is……

    1. I don't agree with your argument about the BBC reflecting the fact that social security is a minority interest. That goes for almost any subject you can mention.

    2. The schedule of the BBC is full of programmes that only appeal to a minority of listeners and viewers.

      Also, the State Pension is part of the Social Security contract.

    3. The BBC can be blamed, as I don't think your assertion holds. One or more of the following will apply to practically the entire audience: claimed benefits at some point, have benefited from payments in the past when their parents received Child Benefit for them, be in receipt of in-work benefits (Tax Credits, DLA, HB etc) or will be anticipating claiming State Pension (should it still exist) when they retire.

      The idea that it holds no interest to the public seems similarly suspect - it's quite clearly of huge interest to them, as reflected in polling, BSAS and, not least, in the constant stream of scrounger-bashing programming on all terrestrial channels. It's undeniably of enormous interest to the public. Unfortunately, that interest is fed by partisan, misleading or malicious news and programming; something the BBC seems fairly happy to contribute to but not to challenge.

      Finally, I don't think anyone is calling for 'masses' of time. A proportionate amount of time would be fine. Maybe the protestors meeting outside the BBC was counterproductive in that the BBC might have felt obliged to explain why they'd chosen that particular location.

  8. Former A4e Client29 June 2014 at 04:09

    It was the Daily Mail that tore into Emma Harrison and A4e for a week, including front page full cover reports, before the BBC even mentioned the issue of A4e's poor job outcome results and excessively high pay for its then Chairman.

    Strange days indeed when the Daily Mail reports on social issues which the BBC ignores. It should be apparent to all that the BBC offers only carefully controlled news that is mostly politically acceptable to the government of the day.

  9. In fairness to the BBC, I learned from Radio 4’s “Today” programme this morning that - in effect - the CSJ has come up with yet another sinister way of forcing Benefits claimants to move house to unfamiliar areas in pursuit of work:

    I have seen no mention of this new idea in any of the newspapers I usually look at on-line and I would not have known anything about it were it not for the BBC man John Humphreys this morning.

    It is not necessary to be aggressive in order to make a pithy point. All that is needed is to drop the hint and then leave the audience to discover the facts, and to draw their own conclusions, if they wish.

    1. I disagree with you completely on this. The only reason that this was covered was that the CSJ is IDS's baby. There's a debate in the Commons this afternoon on the shambles in the DWP. Will the BBC cover that? I doubt it.

    2. Former A4e Client1 July 2014 at 05:23

      The BBC is so desperate to ensure that no government changes its method of funding - the Licence Fee - that it cowardly refuses to report on specific issues which paint the current coalition government in a poor light. Namely benefit 'reform'.

      Contrast this stance with the way in which the BEEB targets disadvantaged and vulnerable households that do not have a BBC tv licence - the letters and use of language are far more harsh and threatening than those used by Wonga. Doorstep visits (unnanounced, of course) and demands to inspect properties are all regularly utilised by the BBC in order to send out a warning to the public.

      The BBC only cares about maintaining its income stream.

  10. To Gissajob - I'm not posting your link because I want to use it in a post myself.


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