Thank you for your email of 22 December. I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you. As your complaint falls withing the Editorial Complaints Unit's remit for cases where there may have been a serious breach of the standards expressed in the BBC's Editorial Guidelines, I shall be happy to investigate it.
To ensure that I do so on the basis of a correct appreciation of the issues, the BBC's complaints procedure provides that, at this stage, I set out the main points of complaints as I understand them, and the element os the Editorial Guidelines I believe to be most relevant to them. From the correspondence to date, I understand your complaints to be that:
I will post my reply to Mr Bell later.
I believe that the relevant sections of the guidelines against which your complaints should be considered are those concerning accuracy which say that: Our output must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, thoroughly tested and presented in clear, precise language.
- The programme was inaccurate in that it gave a misleading impression that the benefits bill has gone up to £60 billion in the last ten years, when this figure also includes pensions. In addition, all the benefits, except housing benefit, which are discussed in the programme have actually remained static or decreased over that time period when measured by the number of claimants;
- The programme was inaccurate presenting the issue of "entitlement" as one of attitude or culture when the benefits system is based on statutory entitlement;
- The programme was inaccurate in that it allowed a contributor to state an inaccurate figure for the minimum wage without this being corrected in the programme;
- The programme was inaccurate in that it failed to point out that the particular combination of circumstances and benefits required to cause work to make a household worse off are actually very rare;
- The programme was inaccurate in presenting Splott as a case study without acknowledging that it is one of only 5% of wards in Britain where such a large number of people are out of work;
- The programme was inaccurate in that, in the scene filmed in the Cardiff Job Centre, no distinction was drawn between full-time and part-time, or permanent and temporary vacancies and there was no acknowledgement that a third of the vacancies were not actually in Cardiff or that in many cases vacancies listed at job centres do not even exist;
- The programme was inaccurate in that it stated repeatedly that there were jobs available without considering the ratio of vacancies to job seekers;
- The programme was inaccurate when it presented Dr Sharon Fisher as qualified to speak on the number of people receiving Incapacity Benefit when she is not;
- The programme inaccurately gave the impression that those in receipt of Incapacity Benefit are people absent from work on sickness grounds. In fact, the figure quoted includes people who are disabled;
- The programme inaccurate stated that 11,000 people a week are currently being assessed for Incapacity Benefit when the actual number is far short of this;
- The programme gives an inaccurate impression that until recently GPs had the "final say" as to whether someone should receive Incapacity Benefit when this was not the case.
If you wish to consult them yourself, the Editorial Guidelines can be seen in full at httP:/www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/ . If you have any comments on this summary of your complaint and the relevant guidelines, please let me have them by 30 January so that I can take them into consideration in the course of my investigation. I will aim to let you know the outcome of my investigation by 5 March.
Yours sincerely, Andrew Bell