Wednesday, 1 August 2012

DWP feigning injury over benefits reporting

Simply incredible. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is reportedly* considering a complaint to Ofcom against Channel 4' Dispatches for unfair coverage of disability benefits issues.

Yes, the Department that for two years have been the source for so many misinformed newspaper articles about the issue are now complaining about bias.

Yes, the Department that have been warned by the UK Statistics Authority on several occasions about feeding figures that were "highly vulnerable to misinterpretation" or "not as clear as [they] should be."

Yes, the Department that was urged by the Work and Pensions Select Committee to do work harder to ensure "that unhelpful and inaccurate stories can be shown to have no basis.”

You get the impression that those who follow what the DWP does feel it has been at best negligent in ensuring fair coverage of people claiming benefits, which as it happens, the Government want to spend less on.

It is a situation that has led to regulator intervention against the newspapers that have passed on the information from DWP, in the form of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

So for the Department to play the victim of biased coverage is as devoid of credibility as some of the reports they have encouraged.

Of course the issue with this Ofcom debate will be one of political partiality rather than accuracy, given that the under cover Doctor in Channel 4's Dispatches was the Labour candidate for West Dorset in 2010.

Which will make it all the more galling if a complaint it made and upheld by Ofcom. Not that Ofcom should waive its rules just because of DWP's track record. Far from it, but it would be like Richard Littlejohn making a successful complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

If the rules were broken, so be it - you can't have rules that only apply when people we disagree with break them - even if it is hard to see that the DWP agenda is hardly more sinned against than sinned when it comes to unfair media coverage.

* Albeit in the Daily Mail

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