Thursday, 29 December 2011

Case #3: My Complaint Is Elevated To Stage 2

I've just received this e-mail from the BBC complaints department, clarifying for the first time that my complaint is now at stage 2 where it is a concern of the Editorial Complaints Unit.

Dear Mr Dixon, Autistic

Reference CAS-1209780-897B2R

Thanks for contacting the BBC.

We understand you’re unhappy with your second response.

As per the procedure outlined on the BBC Complaints website, we have responded to your previous complaints and Stage 1 is therefore complete.

Therefore as we previously advised, if you believe a serious and specific breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines has occurred here, and you wish to pursue this complaint further, you can contact the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, within 20 working days, and they will carry out an independent investigation. You can write to them at the following address: Editorial Complaints Unit Room 5170 White City 201 Wood Lane London W12 7TS Alternatively you can e-mail the Unit at the address:, but please note that complaints submitted via e-mail must include a postal address as ECU findings are sent by letter.
This is important because the BBC Complaints website that details the process is hilariously unclear about how this works; I had thought I was talking to the Editorial Complaints Unit from the beginning or that my complaints were being passed on when it was clear those at the vanilla complaints department were out of their depth. Clearly they did speak with the makers of the programme The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys and even they were out of their depth when asked to justify some of the things they had included in the programme. As a reminder: they used a speech by David Cameron as a source for the claim that the benefits bill had risen by almost £60 billion. Now what's important about this is that my complaint is not specifically about the number of factual errors or misleading claims; my complaint is about the lack of factual rigour in the programme. It's not that this claim is wrong, it's that there is no factual rigour to it: the benefits bill in nominal terms has gone up by nearly £60 billion. This is a dog whistle however and the audience is left to come to their own conclusions about it, whilst all the surrounding material in the programme nudges them towards an obvious conclusion: it's gone up because of the 'benefit culture' John Humphrys in the programme keeps telling us exists and newspapers and politicians outside the programme keep telling us exists. The reality is more complicated than that; the bit the programme leaves out is why it has gone up and the answer quite simply is: inflation makes up more than half of that figure. Even if the number of claimants stayed the same (which they mostly did except for the number of pensioners) it would still have gone up. By basing their source for this claim on a political speech by a politician trying to attack the Welfare State, they have demonstrated terrible factual rigour.

When the Editorial Complaints Unit get in touch, I will be pressing these reasons so they don't 'misunderstand' my complaint as epically as the frontline complaints staff and programme makers have.


  1. I assume you've contacted them as instructed and everything? Not meaning to be patronising, but it wasn't clear from what you've written and it would be awful for this to end up being dropped because of a misunderstanding...

  2. Yes, my previous post was my complaint in full sent to the e-mail address for the Editorial Complaints Unit that I had finally been given.

    This will not be dropped over anything trite. If the ECU fails to either rebut my allegations or accept them following an evidence-led investigation, they risk me taking it to the BBC Trust once I have a full line-by-line examination of the programme finished. Even then I might not even need to wait that long: I can endlessly reel off examples of segments of the programme where factual rigour was seriously lacking. This is enough so that the onus can be put on them to specifically justify every claim in the programme rather than having me refute all of it.

    I believe that the entire programme must be publicly retracted or broadcast again with substantial corrections to virtually every segment. The quality of national discourse on welfare has been appalling in regards to factual accuracy and the programme brought it to a new low. They will not get away with it.

  3. Thank you for keeping on with the complaint. It is important that those responsible for putting out that rubbish programme are held to account.

  4. You are exactly right in this pursuit. Keep up the good work.