Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Case #1: Why He Was Always A Quiet Man

We're going to talk about thick people today. Yes, I'm very mean, but they're too thick to notice so don't worry, this won't hurt them. But we all know someone who is a bit slow on the up-take and not because of some audio or language processing delay, I mean their ability to grasp complex or abstract concepts is so in deficit that when they try to be clever, they end up saying something so stupid that temporarily, you also become stupid whilst you try to work out what sense it's supposed to make. A little while ago someone tweeted that they knew a person who works for the Secretary of State for Welfare, Iain Duncan-Smith. What they had been told was that the man was quite challenged, or 'thick as a plank'. The thought had never occurred to me before. Current ideas about the reasons for welfare reform included pure maliciousness, good intentions blinded by ideology and indifferent politics seeking good publicity. Now I can add 'they're just a bit thick' to the list after Iain Duncan-Smith went and confirmed the Twitter rumour.




Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Case #3: Something Stirs

Just received this message from the BBC:

"Dear Audience Member

Reference CAS-1110929-X07FRL

Thank you for contacting the BBC.

We wanted to let you know that we've received your recent complaint and will respond as soon as possible, however we hope you understand that the time taken to do so can depend on the nature of your complaint and the number of other complaints we're currently dealing with.

We issue public responses to concerns which prompt large numbers of significant complaints and these can be read on our website at:

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

We would be grateful if you would not reply to this email - in the meantime, we would like to thank you again for contacting us with your concerns, we appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

Kind Regards

Leigh Mallon
BBC Complaints"

Monday, 21 November 2011

Cassandra Syndrome

Most people are more edmucated than me, but few use Google so well. Google 'Cassandra' with 'Greek Myth' or 'Syndrome added in and you'll find that Cassandra was an oracle that offended the gods by predicting the future more accurately than a mortal should. As punishment she was cursed so that no one would ever believe her predictions. She didn't see that one coming, or did, possibly explaining why she milked her gift as much as she could before it became impossible.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Case #3: Time Is Up.

I have just submitted the following complaint on the BBC complaints form.

It has been over ten working days since I made my second complaint about this programme, due to the first complaint not being taken seriously. I was sent a response to that first complaint which was mostly a template response and it appears every one of the other 135 complaint writers received that exact same copy-pasted reply. This falls far outside the standards of best practices that should be expected from a public service.

All of the other complaints that I have read focused on the programme's bias. Mine did not; my complaint was entirely focused on the lack of factual rigour in the programme. This was not at all addressed so in my second complaint a provided a handful of examples with accompanying explanations of what I found to be wrong with them. I have waited patiently for a reply to this and today marks the tenth working day from which I submitted my second complaint. There has been no response and despite the number of complaints the BBC has not made a public response on the relevant webpage either.

Every error in the programme is serious and the errors in the programme are extensive and could not fail to widely mislead an uninformed audience who receive much of their information from the press, who frequently fudge facts and skew data, often at the behest of ministers advancing welfare reforms.

I will continue to pursue a proper response from the BBC on this matter and have begun work on a line-by-line rebuttal of the way the programme presents information, the publicly available information it omitted (such as the actual fraud prevalence and expenditure figures) and the outright inaccurate claims that were clearly not checked (no researchers are credited in the programme). If I continue to be ignored I will escalate my complaint as far as it can go.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lord Freud, DLA Is Not Loosely Applied

In the debate during the Lords Committee session for the Welfare Reform bill yesterday, David Freud made the following comment:
"My Lords, the real trouble with the benefit is that it has been so loosely applied that it is impossible to take it fraudulently. I exaggerate slightly to make the point but that is the reason. The last time it was looked at in detail-I think it was 2004-5: I am plucking figures slightly from memory-I think there were overpayments of around £630 million and underpayments of around £250 million or £270 million. I am ahead of my team. It was around that figure. It was not because people were being fraudulent, it was just because it was no longer the right rate and you could not tell whether it had not been the right rate the day before or the day after. Fraud is not the issue with the DLA. The issue is the looseness of its application."

Request For Evidence.

I've seen conflicting reports about what happens when a person is turned down for ESA after an assessment and then they appeal. I know that typically a person turned down must claim Jobseeker's Allowance but I've read stories where people appeal and stay on Assessment Phase ESA(which is paid at the same rate as JSA) in the meantime but on the BBC East programme Inside Out yesterday the case study featured was moved onto JSA whilst waiting for an appeal. He was not permitted to keep claiming ESA.

If anyone knows why some claimants are said to be put on JSA whilst waiting for appeals whilst others stay on ESA in the Assessment Phase, I'd like to know. It's possible that they are all on ESA but because the rate is exactly the same as JSA, it's more simple to tell audiences that they are on JSA. I'd like to be sure though.

Monday, 14 November 2011

More than 140 complaints.

An update on recent events- I have not yet had a reply to my second complaint to the BBC over The Future State of Welfare and this Friday will be ten working days since I made it. They are supposed to respond before then. Also, I've heard that the number of complaints was high enough that the BBC are supposed to make a public response to it on their complaints page. They have done so for programmes dated more recently but have not done so for TFSOW. When/if I get a further reply I will seek a correction to this oversight. I will also be pursuing my complaint to the fullest extent and escalate it until the programme is either retracted in full or a prominent list of corrections is published on the BBC website alongside an apology and assurance that the programme will not be shown again without those corrections appearing on-screen during it. I've read the BBC guidelines focusing on accuracy and I believe the case is very strong that the programme failed to meet them and through that lack of rigour inevitably failed to meet the standards require to avoid bias. I am fairly sure at least one of those John Humphrys interviewed who featured in the programme may have learning difficulties and did not have an appropriate adult present, though I will not name them here. This put a vulnerable adult in a compromising position. I do not believe ANY of the benefit claimants featured in the programme were informed of the context of the programme and why their contributions were being sought. The programme did not treat the subject as controversial and failed to distinguish fact from opinion.

This isn't a full list of the issues I have with it, there are so many. I will begin working on a full line-by-line rebuttal of the programme when I receive the BBC response or when the Friday deadline expires, which ever comes first.

Why I No Longer Post At The Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/14/osborne-benefits-lib-dems?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

Reading the comments below the line, I get the feeling that the moderators just don't care. They want the website to be of Daily Mail quality from now on and persistent trolls repeating the same canards they've been corrected on dozens of times have free-reign where those who even slightly let their temper slip will have their posts removed. They get the community they deserve and soon the Guardian will have a sewer.

Case #4: What Harrington Won't Look At

The BBC must be trying to get back in somebody's good books after the atrocious double-whammy of The Future Of The Welfare State and Panorama: Britain On The Fiddle within a week of each other, timed suspiciously with the nearing of the Welfare Reform Bill's conclusion in Parliament. On Monday a local programme for the East of England, Inside Out will be investigating the appeals made against ESA decisions. They put an article about it up in advance on their website and it pretty much just recycles what everyone that actually gives a crap about the issue has known for over a year. The interesting bit is the response from Atos.
Inside Out asked Atos to comment on the high number of incorrect assessments.
The company said it focused on quality and satisfaction but it was "recognised by all parties" that the number of appeals "is higher than would be liked" but the total number of appeals was just 7% of all the assessments it carried out.
7%? I've heard this figure before but not for 'total number of assessments'. Previously it was the figure quoted for the proportion of successful appeals out of the total for ESA, a figure which I also thought smelled. Here's why.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Tabloid Logic: Analysis Says "Don't" It Really Means "Do".

Most readers of The Files will have seen or heard about the recent Mail and Telegraph articles reporting that X number of DLA claimants have never had a face-to-face assessment. Remember that ministers say they don't encourage the newspapers to behave in this way, Chris Grayling insists he's 'bemused' by it. But the Ad Hoc Analysis page on the DWP website exists for a reason.

Basically, from the moment they came into office (and like the Labour government before) they were briefing the press against benefit claimants. These were euphemistically called 'press releases' but they weren't in the DWP press releases on the website and some journos noted that they were on the DWP list for press releases but they weren't receiving these. The DWP it turned out was sending special 'press releases' to certain newspapers specifically because of their stance on benefit claimants. FullFact.org kicked up a fuss and eventually got the government to concede to make these releases public, which they did.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Scroungers Everywhere? Blame Kevin Bacon.

When something tragic happens and features in the news; a death due to an accident or horrific killing, there is virtually always a shining series of character witnesses giving statements. They speak of the victim as being wholly good. They were decent, generous, funny, talented, loyal and gave many happy memories. I'm not completely socially tone-deaf, but my ability to function depends on my ability to analyse things the way I do and there is something about the probability and coincidence that makes the obvious conclusion utterly ridiculous to the socially-attuned. I am bound to end up saying something extremely inappropriate and potentially offensive because I can't see any other explanation for how victims can consistently be angels.  

It makes me glad I'm an asshole.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Case #3: The BBC Fails To Answer My Complaint

I have just receive this e-mail from Stuart Webb at the BBC complaints office.

Dear Mr Dixon

Reference CAS-1069784-FX2C91

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. I also note that you wished a transcript of the programme:

I'm sorry but it is not possible to provide a transcript as there’s no longer a central unit dealing with programme transcripts. Some programmes do provide them; if this is the case they will often mention the details at the end of the transmission and they will usually be found on the programme's website. Transcripts are not made automatically as part of the programme making process. Transcribing is very expensive and the licence fee cannot sustain it as an automatic service. As I am sure you will appreciate, the enormous range of programmes broadcast daily across the BBC's television and radio networks means providing transcripts for all of our output would be impossible.

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
It goes on to say that the sender is an outgoing e-mail account only and will not accept replies. No details are provided in case a person is unsatisfied with the BBC response, which I certainly am. Apart from the transcript, it does not discuss my concerns at all. I do not care about Mr Humphrys opinions, nor the opinions of anyone in the programme. I care only about the factual integrity and the rigour behind what little research went into it. The BBC rather than showing concern about alleged factual short-comings simply states that they are happy with this. This is shameful. My original complaint can be found here

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Words Laid Bare

What follows is the result of an effort to transcribe the BBC programme 'The Future State Of Welfare With John Hymphrys' by myself. The programme will no longer be available on the iPlayer an hour from now until it is repeated on broadcast television. Yesterday I began a rush with the little spare time I had to capture the words before they were gone and I can not hope that the BBC will release a transcript themselves as I asked when I made my complaint about the programme. There has been no response on the BBC complaints page yet.

I acknowledge that the copyright for the programme belongs to Matchlight, who made the programme for BBC Scotland. This transcript has been made in the absence of an official one being made available promptly after a request to the BBC and has been transcribed from a publicly viewable channel of Britain's public service broadcaster, for the purposes of critical comment and posterity. This transcription is my own work, but I acknowledge that the words belong to their respective originators with the exception that John Humphrys is credited as the writer of the programme itself and editorial decisions were made by persons working on the programme who are not necessarily featured in it, who decided what statements were fit for public service broadcast in line with the BBC charter. Any other copyrights or moral rights to contents of the programme are credited but are also included for critical comment made in good faith. If you are the owner of any copyrighted material within, please contact me at Arecbalrin@live.co.uk or in the comments below directly if you wish for it to be removed and state your grounds. This blog is hosted on Blogger, a US company under US jurisdiction and bound by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and this transcript is protected under Fair Use for critical comment. A DMCA notice falsely made in bad faith is under the penalty of PERJURY and counter-notices will be filed and further action taken to pursue costs and punitive damages to discourage DMCA abuse for the cause of censorship.

This transcript will be subject to future changes in order to comply with lawful and rightful requests and to clarify who is speaking and where. This is a preliminary groundwork to critically appraise the entire programme line by line as it is my belief that the producers and writer made it with no intention of exercising rigour and impartiality in the way they have presented benefit claimants, the Welfare State and the facts. The seriousness of these misleading propositions are not a hierarchy: they are all equally serious because they demonstrate a disinterested agenda not concerned with factual accuracy, context or fairness. They represent a consolidation and reinforcement of prejudices, stereotypes and myths which have dominated public discourse on social security policy in Britain for almost two decades. These have consequences that are not felt by their promoters, they are felt by the most vulnerable and marginalised in society who have the least means of opposing them. This transcript will be used in a line-by-line rebuttal of the programme's handling of the facts, it's premise, bias and the reputations of millions of people. For now this remains un-amended. The BBC is now included alongside the government and the official opposition in Parliament in Case File #1, examining the motives and intent behind welfare policy in Britain.