I’m sure many voters are seeking the answers to the question is if person like John Humphrys was relating a true story based on his personal circumstances like where he grew up how can this be bias this what was alleged to be said by John Humphrys: ‘This is where I was brought up – Splott in Cardiff. Poor, working-class district. Respectable poor, I suppose you could say. This is the house where I was born. ‘In those days everybody, if they could, was expected to work. And they did. We knew only one family where the father did not work, never had a job, and he was regarded as a pariah. It was a mark of shame.
‘Today, one in four of the working-age people in this area is on some form of benefit.’ Later in the programme Humphrys spoke to benefit claimants who risked losing out under proposed reforms Among the interviewees was Pat Dale from Cardiff, who appeared resigned to a life on benefits, saying she would be ‘working for nothing’ if she took a job on the minimum wage.
Humphrys observed: ‘Obviously she sees herself as a victim, and maybe she’s right. A victim of the benefits system, the benefits culture that we have created over the decades.’
In Middlesbrough he had the following exchange with benefit claimant Steve Brown:
Brown: ‘I wanna work but I can’t afford the minimum wage work.’
Humphrys: ‘You don’t think that working is better than not working, whatever the financial outcome?’
Brown: ‘No, no, no, no not at all, like, no. I don’t wanna be going out to work for 40 hours and missing my kids, if I’m only going to receive a few quid extra for it, do you understand? I’m missing my kids growing up. I can’t see how the minimum wage is, is good enough, that’s all.’
Humphrys: ‘Well, a lot of people do work for the minimum wage.’
Brown: ‘Well, the way it worked out for me, like I say, it was just not worth going to work for it.’
Humphrys (voice-over): ‘So what Steve Brown has done is make a straightforward calculation – go out to work for very little extra, or stay home and enjoy his children. He’s chosen the latter. And that presents politicians with a massive dilemma.’
Humphrys then spoke to the Mayor of Middlesbrough. The presenter said: ‘One in ten are out of work here, the highest unemployment rate in the country. You might think the reason for that is simple: no jobs. But talk to the Mayor of Middlesbrough, Ray Mallon, you get a very different explanation.
Mr Mallon: ‘When you look at Middlesbrough, out of an 88,000 working population, 18,000 people are on some form of benefit. I mean, 18,000 people out of an 88,000 working population on benefits, that’s a big issue.
‘At the moment you’ve got a large cohort of people that are not even applying for jobs.
‘This just isn’t on. It’s almost a lack of hope, it’s almost a lack of engagement – that the State have looked after us, and they’ll continue to do it.’
For balance, the programme featured a strong attack on welfare cutbacks, with Humphrys travelling to New York to meet Aine Duggan at the New York Food Bank, who talked of ‘the atrocity of welfare reform’.
Centre for Social Justice executive director Gavin Pool said: ‘I think there’s something wrong with a system that enables part of the population who could work, to choose the option to live life on benefits.
‘A lot of people are trapped on benefits. They’re worse off by going into work and that simply isn’t right.’
Prof Paul Gregg of Bristol University said: ‘We are now in a situation where the support of a child, in terms of the cash payments received, is broadly equivalent to that for an adult.
‘This was an attempt to reduce child poverty. The other side of this kind of argument is that the very creation of that kind of a safety net encourages people to perhaps exist on welfare payments longer than they otherwise would do.’
Speaking in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon, the Tory chairman Grant Shapps said viewers of the BBC could be forgiven for thinking that the government’s welfare reforms would result in “Armageddon“.
Shapps said “He think it’s incumbent on the national broadcaster to cover these things fair and properly.”
“There was a weekend back in the autumn last year where a number of different welfare caps were coming in … and watching the BBC you would have been forgiven for imagining this was Armageddon. The broadcaster was so fundamentally over the top. I think that is irresponsible.”
He added: “It is right for the BBC to tackle that kind of problem, particularly if it feels like it is institutional. I do think it is incumbent on a major broadcaster to be scrupulous and fair and not let their own opinions shine through their broadcasts.”
The BBC Trust ruled that a programme about the government’s welfare reforms presented by John Humprhys breached its impartiality guidelines in a way poverty campaigners said gave too positive view of the government.
But work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith also reacted angrily to the suggestion the Humprhys programme was biased in favour of the government. “I have just watched reporting on the BBC about the government winning a High Court judgment on the spare room subsidy that once again has left me absolutely staggered at the blatant left-wing bias within the coverage,” he said.
“And yet the BBC Trust criticise John Humphrys’s programme, which was thoughtful, intelligent and born out of the real life experience of individuals.”
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said the programme broke rules on accuracy and impartiality “in ways that fundamentally misled viewers”.
She added: “This programme, like too many media stories, failed the public by swallowing wholesale the evidence-free myth of a ‘dependency culture’ in which unemployment and rising benefit spending is the fault of the unemployed.”