N E W S • F R A M E S • • • • •

About media framing • (written by Brian Dean)

BBC’s Richard Bilton – correspondence

with 4 comments

bbc-emailsThis is the email correspondence I had with Richard Bilton, presenter of BBC1’s three-part series, Britain on the fiddle. For background please see my article about that programme.

Dear Richard,  [Sent: 07/11/2013]

I didn’t enjoy ‘Britain on the fiddle’. I thought some of the factoids presented at the start of the programme, for instance, were misleading. But I’m sure you’ll be getting complaints from others regarding the facts.

My real concern was how the programme so blatantly reinforced rightwing tabloid framing of the issue. I’d be interested to know whether you subscribe to this viewpoint personally (it very much seemed so, watching the programme). I’d also be interested to know how these programmes come about. Who decided, on behalf of TV licence-payers, that the BBC would run these hour-long programmes, scapegoating “benefits cheats” – rather than, say, focusing, on corporate tax avoidance, ongoing bank bailouts or high-level fraud in government/city (each of which are reported to cost the country more than benefits fraud).

Do you not think the public already hears enough about welfare fraud from politicians and the rightwing press?

Sincerely,
Brian Dean (News Frames)
………………………………………………………………

Dear Mr Dean   [Received: 08/11/2013]

Thanks for your email. I’m sorry you are unhappy with our programme.

I understand the points you raise and feel I should set out my position.

I’m a journalist and I treat stories on their merit. Fraud against the state is an important issue. The vast majority of people who claim benefits do so because they rely on them. The minority who abuse the system spoil it for everyone else.

The first episode looked at benefit claimants. Further episodes look at those who cheat the tax system and those who commit VAT fraud.

I believe journalists and programme makers should cover controversial topics and issues irrespective of any criticism that may follow.

Most of my work is for Panorama. This year alone I have examined the government’s policy of giving tax breaks to big business, the tax avoidance policy of Barclays Bank, the construction industry’s use of an illegal ‘blacklist’ and the mistreatment of workers in the garment industry.

Each of these programmes attracted some criticism, but I believe each was important in highlighting nationally significant issues.

Regards

Richard Bilton

………………………………………………………………………………………….
Dear Richard,  [Sent: 08/11/2013]

Thanks for your reply. You defend your programme (which targeted benefits claimants) by saying: “Fraud against the state is an important issue”.

But the first 3 minutes showed two cases: a £95,000 game-show winner, and a £52,920 expenditure on a Rolex watch. And from there you pile on the tabloid clichés. Your introductory statement cites a figure of “£20bn stolen from the state”. (DWP estimate for benefits fraud: £1.2bn).

Do you honestly believe you gave this “important issue” the serious treatment it deserved?

Sincerely,
Brian Dean (News Frames)
………………………………………………………………………………………….

Dear Mr Dean  [Received: 13/11/2013]

I appreciate your position, but I’ve explained why I believe the issue merits attention.

To pick up on two of your specific points, you say our programme was about benefit claimants. It wasn’t. It was about individuals who steal significant amounts from the benefits system. The two are not interchangeable. The benefit system is crucial to millions of people. Those who steal from it undermine the system for everyone else.

On the figures, £20 billion is the total amount of money lost by the state because of fraud. In later programmes we look at cases involving VAT fraud and tax-evasion.

Regards

Richard Bilton

(Of course, I’d written, correctly, that his programme “targeted benefits claimants” – within the context of fraud – to distinguish from the other targets that he claims later programmes on tax and VAT will tackle.)

………………………………………………………………………………………….
Dear Richard,   [Sent: 13/11/2013]

Thanks again for replying. In an hour-long programme about benefits fraud, you gave the “£20bn stolen” figure without mentioning that only £1.2bn of that is down to benefits fraud. I don’t think the purpose was to inform.

Enough said, I think.

Thanks,
Brian Dean (News Frames)
………………………………………………………………………………………….

Written by NewsFrames

November 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Dear Mr Bilton,

    I had the unfortunate experience of watching your programme Panorama on Dr Burzynski (BBC Panorama investigates the Burzynski clinic) and I must say that my past very positive opinion of the BBC has gone down the gutter.

    Your programme was biased from the very beginning, as if you were on the payroll of the Food and Drug Administration of Washington.

    Most intelligent people with a good sense of analysis would be able to perceive the weakness of your programme, but, unfortunately, this is not the case of many not well-informed people who would arrive at the conclusion that you want them to reach, ie that Dr Burzynski is a “fraud”.

    You present cases of two children whose doctors told their parents that their chances of survival were zero.
    Dr Burzynski never claimed that the survival rate of his treatment was 100%. In fact, he said that it was close to 30% and he did say that the bad news was that it was only 30%.
    Dr Burzynski never claimed that he could provide a 100% guarantee of success. What he did say, and you did not attach much importance to it, is that his treatment is not accompanied with the horrible side-effects and consequences of chemo-therapy.

    You cited a nurse at a hospital who said that she had never come across a child at her hospital whose treatment at the hands of Dr Burzynski was successful.

    Well, Mr Bilton, just in case you do not know,, only sick people and not those in good health seek treatment at a hospital!

    I could give more examples of the harmful flaws of your programme, but I shall stop here because I doubt whether it would serve any purpose to continue.

    Please just consider the following question: who is the person commiting fraud: the one who manages to cure almost 30% of his patients of brain cancer or the people and their lackeys who perseverance in wanting to discredit the former looks very much like a personal vendetta?

    Yours sincerely,
    Antonio Cruz

    Antonio Cruz

    January 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

  2. Hi Richard , eu achei seu crachá no centro do RIo de Janeiro Hoje 2016-09-01. me informe como posso devolver

    Bruno

    September 1, 2016 at 4:28 pm

  3. How did you get his email? Last night we had to endure the atrocious way he spoke to one of the women on Panorama about the benefit cap (April 5th 2017). He actually suggested to a disabled woman who wanted to bring up her young family that it was a luxury! It is beyond outrageous. Mothers wanting to bring up their children? How very dare they? And next he will be whinging about the break up of the family.

    Jaki

    April 6, 2017 at 12:05 am

  4. Dear mr Richard Bilton,
    I believe I have information regards
    Fraudulent action carried out by a government body in a planning application
    That involves a Counciler and planning officers,
    I have a court case pending at the moment ,
    I am takeoff action against North Yorkshire county council , I think you would be interested in matter I will leave my email
    You can contact me any time ,
    Regards Jim Winchurch.

    James Winchurch

    May 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm


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