Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Mountford’

Channel 5’s Latest Attack on the Poor: On Benefits and Proud

October 12, 2013

In my last blog post I recommended anyone with an interest in historic technology to watch Beat the Ancestors, a programme on Channel 5 on Mondays, in which a team of engineers, craftsmen and film special effects technicians attempt to recreate and improve upon a device from history. This could be a weapon, such as a cannon, or, as in Monday’s programme, a machine such as the 13th century crane used to build Salisbury Cathedral. It’s an example of the often excellent archaeology and history programmes, which the fifth channel is capable of making, and often does far better than the BBC or Channel 4.

Unfortunately, the Channel is owned by the pornographer and right-wing proprietor of the Daily Express, Richard Desmond. Thus, an hour after this foray into industrial history and experimental archaeology, comes another attack on the unemployed. At 9 o’clock is the documentary On Benefits and Proud. According to the Radio Times, this is about

‘The lifestyles of some of those living off the state who are not currently seeking employment, including of a mother of 11 whose benefits are double the average wage in Britain’.

Now Mike, over at Vox Political, Johnny Void and any number of other left-wing blogs, like Diary of a Benefit Scrounger are doing their level best to disabuse the electorate of the Tory notion that there are people on benefits living good lives at the public expense. One of the guests launched a splenetic, and hilarious diatribe sending up these kinds of stories last night on the long-running satirical quiz show, Have I Got News For You. Nevertheless, they get recycled in order to support the Tory policy of re-introducing grinding, Third-World poverty to this country to punish those unfortunate enough not to be working. Not that Channel 5 is alone in this. The Beeb did something similar a few months ago with Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer in We All Pay Your Benefits. Spamfish over at Oprichnik Rising launched a blistering attack on that one, because of the way it misrepresented one of his friends. I’ve reblogged the story, so it’s over here as well as on his site. Go and look at it to see for yourself how disgracefully manipulative these shows are.

This programme will be broadcast following the story on yesterday’s news that the Red Cross are having to deal with grinding poverty in this country. Millions of people in Britain are, according to yesterday’s edition of the Express, faced with the choice of ‘heat or eat’. They can either buy food, or pay their heating bills, but they can’t do both. Meanwhile the electricity companies, already making vast profits, are raising their bills by another ten per cent and running scare stories about Labour’s plans to cap them. As for higher executives at the Beeb, these are on multi-million pound salaries, as shown by the various golden handshakes given to the Beeb’s Director-Generals, who have been forced to resign following the Jimmy Saville scandal. A casual glance at the ‘Media News’ section in Private Eye will actually tell you just how bloated some of these executives’ salaries are. Now I’ve no doubt that, if confronted about these stories of benefit scroungers and welfare queens the same broadcasting executive would probably try to justify themselves by talking about how they were trying to preserve broadcasting neutrality, and presenting the other side of the argument, in contrast to the stories they’ve run about rising poverty on the news. They have not, to my knowledge, actually presented in documentary form the opposing viewpoint that most people on benefits don’t want to be there, and, in contrast to these highly biased documentaries, are not living at all. It’s about time they did. We, the general public, pay their wages, either directly through the license fee, or indirectly by watching their programmes and forming a demographic for their advertisers. The public may pay for the benefits supporting the unemployed, but the unemployed also pay the salaries of the TV executives. They are responsible to them, and so should make programmes revealing how the real poor live, not the minority that are constantly cited to support the Neo-Liberal fantasies of Right-wing politicos.

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

July 14, 2013

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.