Today the Work and Pensions Committee released its long-awaited report into the widespread failings in the ATOS execution of the ESA Work Capability Assessment - disabled people being hounded out of their benefits by a foreign-owned multinational with a cushy government contract, sounds like just the kind of story to get any journalist to roll out their righteous indignation, right?
But no, what do the BBC lead with: "Tests claim few benefit claimants 'unfit to work'", with the Work and Pensions Committee report relegated to halfway down the page with a suggestion that there has been 'some criticism' rather than the near universal criticism that is the reality. Purely by coincidence (yeah, right - the last quarterly report released on a Wednesday, not a Tuesday), the DWP have chosen today to release their new ESA figures, again claiming that only 7% of ESA claimants are unfit for work. As I showed in my analysis of the BBC report on the previous figures a more reasonable interpretation would be that 43% of people assessed are unfit for work. Interestingly the DWP's own page on the press release states "New statistics published by DWP today show that over a third (39 per cent) of those who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are assessed as fit for work." So that would be 61% not assessed as fit to work by the DWP's own statement, when did 61% become 'few'?
That the BBC have to include an 'Analysis' section in their report explaining that the figures are more complex than whether someone is unfit for work or not and have to be taken in context (a context the article fails to provide), no matter the implication the headlines will already have firmly implanted in the reader, suggests that there is division within the newsroom on how the story should be handled, with the authors recognising that the form of the story as cast by editorial diktat will be fundamentally misleading; and if that is the case, then isn't the BBC failing to meet the requirements of its Charter that it serve the public interest?
We've grown to expect the disablist propaganda of the DWP and the outright bigotry of the Daily Mail, a hate-mongering rag which makes the late and unlamented News of the World look like an edition of the Church Times, but shouldn't we expect better of the BBC, shouldn't we DEMAND better of the BBC?