Sunday, 23 October 2011

Panorama: BBC On The Fiddle

Some time ago the BBC current affairs programme Panorama did a 'special investigation' into benefit fraud in the United Kingdom. They tastefully called it "Britain On The Fiddle". I did not watch it and now I wish I did. It will be repeated either this Thursday according to the BBC website, or a week on Thursday according to the Radio Times. It could be both, Panorama seems to jump around the schedule though brand new episodes are shown on Mondays. The Radio Times listing for what is on around 8 o'clock on the date the BBC gives the programme as "The Future Of The Welfare State" with the same slot a week later being Britain On The Fiddle.

From what I have read, it is replete with its writer's opinions, loose with the facts and excessively sentimental and tabloid-ish. This is probably what caused me to avoid it the first time, but that was also before I began my efforts on understanding the welfare system and its history. It is it seems exactly the kind of  'docu-commentary' the BBC insists it does not make and leaves to Channel 4 to commission.

The first time it aired was sometime in 2010. I have been unable to find a recording of it online. It is not even on the Panorama website where it says you are able to watch any episode for at least the last five years or so. It's probably because the episode was an embarrassment. It may not even actually end up being shown unless heavily edited.

The significant claim I have read is that benefit fraud costs the government more than the planned cuts, the synopsis even claims it has risen by a third during the recession. The figure given is £22 billion, in fraud (not including official and customer error?). Having only been looking at the annual reports for Fraud and Error in the benefits system a few hours ago, I'm suspicious. Let's just look at this one from October 2010, this I what I find on page 14:
Currently, £5.2bn is lost in benefits and tax credits due to fraud and error. The initiatives outlined in this strategy are expected to reduce the level of fraud and error by over one quarter – or £1.4bn – by 2014/15.
That figure is accurate and Panorama will have had access to the same data. There has been a rise in JSA claims because of the recession, but not spike in any other benefit. Naturally fraud for JSA rose proportionately to the total and that's been around 4% for a while, but that isn't enough to justify a claim that total benefit fraud has increased 'by a third' in the slightest.

That there is virtually no information to be found anywhere about Britain On The Fiddle is odd, but we may get the chance to see for ourselves on November 3rd why this has been buried. It is 'Left-biased' BBC at its most tabloid finest.


  1. Arec

    Firstly, I am sorry to hear that you will no longer be posting on Comment is Free.

    It is their substantial loss and I hope that by freeing up some time you will be able to carry on with things here and develop your ideas and information, without the hindrances and impediments of CiF, which has no interest in the plight of ordinary people or fastidious and compelling research.

    Very briefly, the figure of £5.2 billion was the one bandied about by David Cameron and left unchallenged for some time, while the media frothers followed the lead and obediently blamed the sick and disabled and anyone on benefits for causing the global economic meltdown.

    This figure was found to include errors by both claimant and government departments.

    The figure for actual, intentional, knowing fraud was later put at around £1 billion.

    This would tally with the government's own figure before the election of £670 million.

    Alongside this, there has also been a figure in general currency of around £12 billion for the amount of various benefits which remain unclaimed.

    So, the feral underclass is hardly operating a mafia-style syndicate to eviscerate the country of all its money by any means if it is leaving this vast pile of loot untouched.

    As for the amount of tax avoided or evaded or otherwise fiddled and pilfered by the rich, whether in the form of actual, large-as-life people or magical corporations, Brendan Barber and the TUC put this at about £25 billion per annum.

    However, nobody seems to know because the government seems to be intensely relaxed about not bothering to count the tax money it knows it will never see.

    The figure would seem far too low, especially when Vodafone alone seem able not to pay some £6 billion, although, of course, they would claim never to have owed it in the first place.

    Another figure puts tax-fiddling by the rich at about £40 billion per annum and yet another at between £100 and £125 billion.

    The reason for blaming the poor and sick and disabled was simply that the public at large need to be softened up for the Big Heist, whereby the state abandons the people and hands over the NHS and all other aspects of the welfare state to big business.

    It is not even a sell-off but a sell-out.

    The state selling the people down the river.

    Anyway, many thanks, good luck and best wishes and please keep up the good work.

    Places like Comment is Free are now two a penny.

    We need people like you.

  2. Hi Arec

    Another tv programme you might be interested in is ''The Future State Of Welfare''ON 27 October at 9.00pm on BBC2 .It'll be presented by John Humphreys ands will be dealing with welfare provision here in the UK as well as the changes in tha last decade or so in welfare provision in the USA. Many people including myself are alarmed that we're headed for a USA type of welfare provision in this country with all the misery that entails.There'll probably not be much in the programme you weren't already aware of but it could still be interesting to watch.

    Have you thought of posting regularly on the Telegraph site ?Can be a thankless tast but if you approach issues such as the ATOS/WCA scandal in an educational manner there it can reap rewards.For i genuinely think there an awful lot of people out there of all political beliefs who are simply ignorant of what's going on and are genuinely appalled when presented with the facts.



  3. Sorry Arec we crossed wires there. You'd already mentioned the JH programme on Thursday albeit with a slightly different title.

  4. Hello Paul and Arec

    I agree with using The Telegraph as an alternative mainstream media commenting platform.

    A great deal of the time, it seems more amenable to reasoned discussion in support of the poor and sick and disabled and their plight than CiF, which seems to have become little more than a perpetual one-line caption competition and stuffed Pokemon petting-zoo.

    There are the usual suspects on the Telegraph, who simply condemn anyone who has the temerity to think that a civilised society might actually look after those who need help but there are plenty of others who have functioning brains and a more nuanced and subtle outlook.

    There is the added benefit that some people actually post longer and more considered comments in response to articles and there seem to be less "personalities" jostling for recognition and adulation.

    However, the mainstream media is generally part of the problem.

    It has to be remembered that The Guardian was offered the MPs' expenses scandal and, presumably, made their usual decision not to upset any political apple-carts.

    Perhaps try to pitch something to The Telegraph along the lines that the system being rolled out actually costs the taxpayer more for achieving less?

    Best wishes

    Atomboy - in a previous instar.

  5. Hey Atomboy

    Long time no 'see'. Hope all's well in your neck of the woods.

    All the best


  6. Another TV magazine I looked at today says that both programmes will be on this Thursday. Britain On The Fiddle will be on BBC1 at 8pm and The Future Of The Welfare State will be on BBC2 at 9. Question Time is on later and will have Iain Duncan-Smith as a panel guest. I think the timing is more than coincidence.