Response from the BBC re Complaint about Humphrys’ bias in #TFSOWWJH

Today I received this response from the BBC with regard to the complaint made about John Humphry’s programme, “The Future of Welfare”. I am including it in full.

Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC Two’s ‘The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys’ on 27 October.

I understand you felt the programme was biased against the welfare state.

We believe that ‘The Future State of Welfare’ was a balanced look at the benefits debate in the UK. The programme dealt with a difficult and important subject – and the strong opinions held about the issues raised by the current proposals for reform. The impact of current policy and proposed reforms was shown through John’s interviews with individuals who have experience of the system both here in the UK and in the USA. The programme featured interviews with various individuals who claim different types of benefits, and gave them an opportunity to set out their views on the proposed reforms. John conducted these interviews with sympathy and sensitivity and enabling those affected to show how they felt the proposed reforms would impact upon their individual situations.

Both the BBC and John Humphrys consider the programme to be a success – it challenged preconceptions while remaining a balanced and accurate analysis of both emerging policy and public opinion in this highly contentious area.

We’ve registered your comments on our audience log for the benefit of programme makers, commissioning executives, and senior management within the BBC. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape future decisions and they ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are made available to BBC staff across the Corporation.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards

Stuart Webb

BBC Complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

I disagree with this response. As I previously argued, I don’t think Humphrys was balanced in the choice of interviewees. I think that UK interviewees were chosen on the basis of their being “undeserving” recipients of welfare benefits.

It’s much easier to make a political argument to reduce state provision of welfare when looking at the tiny minority of welfare recipients who are seen by some commentators to enjoy a standard of living that is out of reach for many.

Where a person or family is able to rent housing (for instance) in expensive London, which is unaffordable for most working people, we could argue that it is as a result of historically low wages that make it difficult for any of us to find housing which meets our needs: is within commuting distance to work and school, and has enough space for our families. If we want to have workers in our areas where housing is expensive, to service our community of very high paid workers e.g. by cleaning our homes and streets, how else are we to accomplish this without housing benefit, if wages don’t allow to pay for private sector rents?

I am sure that Humphrys gave his interviewees “opportunity” to put views across that did not meet the editorial line of the programme. How ironic, then, that none of these views were represented. I disagree that these interviews were carried out with sensitivity and sympathy, and find it hard to understand how this argument can be made by the BBC.

So, where to next, fellow #wrb campaigners? Do we make additional complaints about the response to these complaints?

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  1. I believe that BBC complaint responses are supposed to come with a thing saying “if you’re not satisfied…” with instructions to press it to the next level, unless it’s a response from the Trust (who are the top level). I believe you can keep pushing it until that level, but of course you need to explain why the response isn’t satisfactory.

  2. James

     /  November 5, 2011

    Hello, I complained to the BBC about the programme the future state of welfare being biased against welfare and got exactly the same reply, I don’t feel the reply from the BBC is honest and I think the reply was a cleverly worded face saving exercise. Every example John Humphrys found of welfare claimants was negative and John could barely hide his disdain and disgust for people on benefits, In fact I can honestly say it was the most biased TV Documentary I have ever seen in my life, usually the BBC are quite good too but I think one or two tv executives got swept along in the anti benefits moral panic currently doing the rounds.

  3. Ben

     /  November 6, 2011

    Its a stock response, I got exactly the same email today. Nice to see the BBC taking the time to address the licence-fee payer’s concerns individually and in detail. Or just sending out a generic email telling them to fuck off, they’re wrong and the programme was both fair and balanced despite it patently being nothing of the sort. Disgraceful.

  4. Colin

     /  November 7, 2011

    I think we have all been on the roundabout that is BBC complaints. The only thing that changes in their response is in some of the wording and the name of the sender.
    Both, in my view, are semi-automated to a template, and it is indeed ironic that this “public service” operates outside the remit of accepted best practice on complaints, yet does not show complaints in the public domain and operates with double standards in attacking selected media, and bankers for instance.
    It is also deeply ironic that John Humphrey is now on a taxpayer paid working holiday in Athens, and this morning had the indecency to extol the lovely sunshine there.
    BBC cuts? What cuts? Only the workers get sacked in BBC not the in your face champagne socialists at the top like Humphry, Dimbleby, Naughty, Kearney, Frey, et al.

  5. James

     /  November 7, 2011

    Yeh, I read up on bbc complaints, you can go up to a second level of complaining where it is investigated by independant bbc management then if you are still not happy with the response, the last stage is the bbc trust, it needs to be taken further, it’s not fair for John Humphrys and co to be allowed to get away with this. For example John Humphrys keenly asked the job centre advisor about there being half a million job vacancies in the UK, so John showed the viewers ‘there are jobs available, what is these unemployed peoples probem????’
    However neither John nor the job centre advisor mentioned that there are currently 2.57 million unemployed in the Uk, so there’s only a job available for one in every five people, for the other 80% of unemployed people THERE ARE NO JOBS JOHN! and his editorial team chose to omit these facts which would have completely reframed the emphasis of the documentary and made it much more balanced. That example was only one of many.

  1. Complaint to the BBC re Humphrys #TFSOWWJH « OT on wheels

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