The Void on Nick and Margaret’s ‘We Pay Your Wages’.

That determined irritant to the government and supporters of welfare cuts, The Void, has this piece devoted to criticising the programme, We Pay Your Benefits on BBC 1, fronted by Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford: Oi, Nick and Margaret, We Pay Your Wages. It’s at

Hewer, Mountford, and the Selected Unemployed and Working ‘Strivers’

The programme, screened last week, featured the two discussing whether those on benefits really were cheats and scroungers as a group of the unemployed and a contrasting group of working ‘strivers’ were encouraged to swap places. This was ostensibly to see if they could learn anything from each other. Hewer and Mountford were Lord Sugar’s deputies from The Apprentice. More recently Nick Hewer has been fronting the government’s adverts encouraging people to take out ‘Workplace Pensions’. I only watched a part of it before going to bed. One of the Void’s criticisms is that the unemployed people shown on the programme were not a representative cross-section of people on benefits. One of the unemployed people shown on the programme was a graduate, who was quite selective in the jobs for which he was looking. This man also had the latest expensive computers, iphones and gamestations. In mitigation it should be said that he was being subsidised by his family. It could not be said, therefore, that the luxuries he possessed were the result of the taxpayer’s generosity. The Void says of the inclusion of this young man that

perhaps the biggest problem with the show was that it only showed one side of the story. The young graduate – who is far likelier to get his hoped for career by volunteering as a youth worker than by working in a pound shop – is in no way typical of hundreds of thousands of young people desperate for any job. The programme didn’t show the endless Jobcentre harassment that young unemployed people face, the thousands of unpaid workfare workers or the desperation faced by those with just £56.80 a week to live on and who don’t have a supportive family member who pays the bills.

Political and Journalistic Commercial Factors in the Programme’s Bias

My guess is that the programme was designed to appeal to that part of the working class and lower middle class that reads the right-wing tabloids ranging from the Sun to the Daily Mail, all of whom boost their circulation with lurid stories about ‘benefit cheats’, while claiming to be an unbiased investigation. Now I have to say that I like Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford. I enjoy some of their wry commentary on the bizarre behaviour of some of the contestants on The Apprentice, and have found Hewer to be a witty and genial guest on shows such as Have I Got News for You. I just don’t think that they have any real understanding of the plight of most of the unemployed. I also wonder how much of the material was the result of the producers and directors, who clearly wanted it to appeal to the demographic described above. They also seem to have wanted it to be a bit controversial as, in the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’. Another factor, apart from personal bias and the desire to appeal to the reader’s of Murdoch’s, Dacre’s and Desmond’s rags could be a desire to be seen to be unbiased by the Right. The BBC is being continually criticised by the Right, in the press and elsewhere, for its apparent left-wing bias. There is even a website devoted to it, Biased BBC. It struck me that the programme could be trying to head off this type of criticism by showing that the Beeb also caters for those with Right-wing tastes and views. Either way, the programme did not present a true, unbiased picture of the unemployed and the immense difficulty people have finding work. The Void’s piece on it is a very good, effect demolition of it.

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One Response to “The Void on Nick and Margaret’s ‘We Pay Your Wages’.”

  1. rainbowwarriorlizzie Says:


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