Tag Archives: advertising standards authority

Here’s the DWP’s ‘Universal Credit’ advertorial – and it’s worse than we expected

Look at the state of this.

It’s the controversial Metro advertorial extolling the alleged virtues of Universal Credit, written by Department for Work and Pensions spokespeople for the Conservative government and containing absolutely no journalistic integrity at all.

It has been widely criticised – to put it mildly:

Apparently the campaign to take Metro off newsstands and into skips hasn’t succeeded as well as some people wanted.

Complaints have been made to the Advertising Standards Authority and This Writer would certainly urge anybody who believes this advert was falsely presented as news, and/or who believes that it contains false information, to add their own complaint.

Here’s the link: https://www.asa.org.uk/make-a-complaint.html

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MPs demand answers on DWP/newspaper propaganda – while disability activists plan direct action

The Department for Work and Pensions’ attempt to hoodwink the public with a covert propaganda campaign to whitewash Universal Credit is falling apart.

You can read about the DWP’s half-baked idea in this article, published on This Site earlier.

Unfortunately for the Department, when information like this gets into the public domain, people react.

So now the chair of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, Frank Field, has written to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, demanding access to all relevant internal DWP documents.

He wants to know the full cost of the campaign (we understand the wraparound advertorials on Metro will be £250,000 a go but that’s not the full cost), whether Rudd personally approved the plans, and what guarantees the department can give as to the accuracy of the advertorial.

He called for guarantees from the DWP that the unbranded advertorials would not confuse claimants or potential claimants, and he asked for evidence that the department had assessed the risk that the PR campaign could prompt people to sign up to universal credit when they did not need to.

That‘s according to The Guardian, which reported that Mr Field is also concerned about reports that some jobcentre staff wrongly advise benefit claimants to switch from legacy benefits to universal credit even when in some cases they will be left hundreds of pounds worse off as a result.

So you can see there is genuine cause for concern about the DWP’s behaviour towards people to whom it has a duty of care.

Mr Field also wants to know about the DWP’s collaboration with the BBC on a documentary series about UC.

For balance, you should know that the Department has denied any impropriety and claimed that all advertisements comply with Advertising Standards Authority regulations.

Meanwhile, Disabled People Against Cuts is advocating direct action against the DWP’s campaign to whitewash Universal Credit, in line with This Site’s previous report:

DPAC has now called on its supporters to visit locations where the free paper is given away – such as train and tube stations – and “remove or otherwise prevent as many as possible” from being read from 31 May.

DPAC is also preparing a dossier of evidence about the DWP-Metro deal to pass to the advertising watchdog, and pledges to “make sure the Metro never want another DWP advert again”.

Source: Direct action pledge after DWP pays tabloid to air-brush universal credit

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Homicidal DWP launches covert campaigns to spread Universal Credit propaganda. FRUSTRATE IT

Wow. You have to admire the sheer arrogance of bosses at the Department for Work and Pensions.

I suppose it arises from the fact that they have been able to “nudge” so many thousands of people off benefits and into the grave – without the slightest fear of punishment.

What else can explain the fact that, according to a memo circulated by DWP bigwigs themselves, the department is launching a campaign to counter “negativity and scaremongering” about Universal Credit – but is hiding the fact that it is involved, in the hope that nobody will notice the publicity is nothing more than thinly-veiled propaganda.

According to Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian, the campaign currently has two spearheads: A wraparound cover, supported by a four-page advertorial feature in the Metro newspaper, and a documentary on UC to be aired on that bastion of impartiality (ha ha), BBC2.

Mr Chakrabortty writes: “I can only assume that the DWP’s overlords are creating their own distortion of reality, because I cannot think of a single bigger policy failure this decade than universal credit.

“Amber Rudd, the DWP secretary, now admits Universal Credit’s introduction has left people so short of cash that they have resorted to food banks.

“What Iain Duncan Smith hailed in 2011 as a transformation of welfare has turned into something grotesque, with massive delays and huge flaws both of administration and design, repeatedly damned by MP select committees.

“The independent National Audit Office judges that universal credit has neither saved public money nor helped people into work. But it has left thousands of vulnerable claimants penniless, while others starve and even lose their homes.

“In a House of Commons debate last summer the London Labour MP Catherine West recounted how one of her constituents had ‘fallen off benefits’ and ended up ‘sleeping in a tent in a bin chamber’ on a housing estate.

“Such are the horrors whose very documentation by journalists the DWP letter dismisses as ‘unfair’. Rather than halt universal credit, as demanded by so many groups, the department’s managers now say they will respond ‘in a different way … very different to anything we’ve done before’.”

Put in a nutshell, they’re going to lie through their teeth.

Apparently the Metro inserts will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC… The features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

This is against the law and the Advertising Standards Authority will (one hopes) take a great interest. This is an advertorial – a marketing communication – and as such there is a legal requirement for it to be labelled as such. Nobody should have any caused to wonder who has done this investigation because they should be able to read in black and white that it isn’t one – it’s an advert.

And a costly advert at that: £250,000 of our money that could be better-used in trying to solve the faults that make Universal Credit a burden on the poor and vulnerable. That’s every week for nine weeks, making a total of £2.25 million.

Mr Chakrabortty describes it as an “elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity”.

The newspaper initiative includes press junkets to Job Centres, for reporters to “see the great work we do”. I doubt anyone will be invited to the JCP at Ashton under Lyne, somehow. Mr Chakrabortty writes: “Doubtless, the Jobcentres will be carefully chosen and everything will be arranged so that when the dignitaries descend, all will be as precisely ordered as the innards of a Swiss watch.”

The other part of the spearhead is a three-part BBC2 documentary series in which reporters have been offered access to three Job Centres. The DWP memo states: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us – we’ve been involved in the process from the outset, and we continue working closely with the BBC to ensure a balanced and insightful piece of television.” For “balanced” read “slanted”, for “insightful” read “propaganda”.

Mr Chakrabortty again: “When the civil servants’ trade union, the PCS, found out about the filming, it asked if staff could talk frankly to the crew, only to be told no: they would still be subject to the civil service code, which demands complete impartiality. Perhaps this explains an internal PCS note on the BBC series I have seen, which remarks that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen. At one of the nominated jobcentres, in Toxteth in Liverpool, ‘It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.’ The risk is that any staff who do participate toe the management line, making the film an advert for universal credit.

“The PCS briefing also reports a senior universal credit manager telling union reps that ‘the DWP would have access to the film before transmission’.” That is a red flag for any reputable reporter. It is simply unacceptable for the subject of a report to have any input into the way it is presented. But: “The BBC confirms that is the case, although it says it has ‘editorial control’.”

The first Metro propaganda ad will appear on the front of that paper at the end of the month and already people are planning a campaign to stop it polluting the opinions of impressionable members of the public.

Although Metro is read by 2.5 million people, it is a free newspaper and that means there’s nothing anybody can do about it if public-spirited watchdogs get to outlets first, scoop out every copy bearing the offensive advertorial, and recycle them before they can do any harm.

I don’t think binning them would be particularly useful, and I doubt burning them would be environmentally-friendly.

As for the BBC2 documentary, the best thing to do is simply not watch it. Boycott the channel while the documentary is being aired and encourage everybody you know to do the same.

And share this article so everybody knows the depths to which the Conservative government will sink. As a campaigner for Sheffield Stop and Scrap Universal Credit stated in the Chakrabortty article: “They could be spending that money on us, but they’re spending it to con us.”

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Failings over race earn Theresa May a figurative rap on the knuckles – twice!

Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.

Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.

Anyone with an ounce of brain in their head knew the Home Office was going to be banned from using its advertising vans again – the ones telling illegal immigrants to “go home”, in the language of “knuckle-dragging racists”, as Owen Jones so memorably phrased it.

That is, anyone except everyone working at the Home Office, including the Secretary of State – Theresa May.

The Advertising Standards Authority ordered the Home Secretary not to put the vans on the streets again, saying the phrase “go home” was indeed a reminder of a racist slogan and “clearly carries baggage”.

The authority also said the posters on the vans referred to inaccurate arrest statistics, claiming there had been 106 arrests in the area in the past week. The ASA said this was misleading as it did not relate to accurate arrest statistics for the specific areas where people would have seen the vans.

They were out in Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow – areas the Home Office believe many illegal immigrants live and work.

The report stated: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Home Office to ensure that in future they held adequate substantiation for their advertising claims and that qualifications were presented clearly.”

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The ASA had received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey, who is from Vox Political‘s home constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, we’re proud to say.

But in an impressive display of tightrope-walking the ASA said the van campaign was not offensive or irresponsible. While the “Go home” slogan had been used in the past to attack immigrants, its report said, the Home Office was now using it in a different context.

Oh! Well, that makes it perfectly acceptable, doesn’t it? Never mind the possibility that nobody seeing those vans in the street was ever likely to consider such a nuance, it was “unlikely to incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multi-cultural communities” because the intention was different!

What about the message implied by these vans – a message that was clearly pointed out by commentators at the time – that Conservative-leaning voters should treat with hatred, suspicion and contempt anybody who is not a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant?

What about the way they encouraged suspicion that another person may be an illegal immigrant?

What about the way the Home Office Twitter account spent the week-long pilot period in which the vans were traipsing round London tweeting messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wanted us to believe had been detected or turned themselves in? Can we believe those figures, if the number on the vans themselves was fake?

What about the photographs transmitted by the same Twitter account, of suspects who had been arrested, before they had been charged? Does anybody remember if any of these people were the white Anglo Saxons mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago?

What about the spot-checks at railway stations, where anybody who was not clearly white could be stopped by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally? How galling was it for British citizens – people who were born and raised in this country – to be faced by a flak-jacketed fiend who (it is claimed) became unreasonably aggressive when challenged over their right to behave in this manner without direct cause for suspicion?

What about the fact that the Home Office undermined its own arguments by being unable to reveal the different ethnicities of the people who were stopped – information that was vital in determining whether they had been breaking the law?

What about the fact that all of this effort was hugely out of proportion when considering the number of illegal immigrants it was likely to net? Forget forced labourers who are brought into the country but kept hidden by criminal organisations – these are not responsible for what happened to them and their cases are likely to be part of criminal investigations into the people holding them captive. Who does that leave?

And what about the possibility that this was not about illegal immigrants at all, but a sop to all those people – many of them Daily Mail readers, we expect – who believe that immigration of any kind is out of control? These are people who need to get to grips with the facts. As reported by this blog and others back in August, the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation; they are assessed via a points-based system, only seven per cent are asylum-seekers and only a third of asylum claims are accepted. They do not have access to most of the benefits available to UK citizens and what they do receive are nowhere near the same value. They are one-third less likely to claim those benefits, meagre as they are, than UK citizens.

The Unite union has been seeking legal advice over this matter, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has also been investigating this. It will be interesting to see what they say.

But a rap on the knuckles over bad information is a good start. Naughty, naughty, Theresa May!

On the same day, the Home Secretary – along with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – faced questions from two Lords committees on the UK’s 2014 opt-out from EU police and criminal justice measures, as part of a reopened inquiry.

If this opt-out is exercised, the Coalition government has listed 35 measures that it would seek to rejoin, and it is these that prompted the Lords to reopen their inquiries.

Parliament’s own website said they were likely to face questions on how they defined the national interest in selecting the 35 measures the UK would seek to rejoin, and whether the changes will break the UK’s obligations to European arrest treaties.

And there were questions to be answered on whether non-participation on measures dealing with xenophobia and racism (the issues at the heart of the matter with the advertising vans) sent an “unfortunate” signal to other EU member states that the UK, under a Conservative-led government, no longer regards those issues as important.

Fortunately for Theresa May, these proceedings do not appear to have been made public.

Race. With attitudes like this, how can we ever win?

Good humour and a twinkle in the eye: But what did Mishal Husain really think about the stories of racial and religious tension in Friday's BBC bulletin?

Good humour and a twinkle in the eye: But what did Mishal Husain really think about the stories of racial and religious tension in Friday’s BBC bulletin?

This country becomes more contradictory every day – or at least, that’s how it may have seemed to many people watching the BBC’s six o’clock news bulletin on Friday.

It led with the announcement that the Advertising Standards Authority would be investigating the scheme in which vans sponsored by the taxpayer (via the Home Office) have been driving through London, allegedly stirring up racial tensions by telling illegal immigrants to “go home”. Elsewhere, the vans have been criticised because they have encouraged people to report fellow British citizens as illegal aliens, and immigration officers carrying out spot-checks have also targeted people who were born in this country because they “didn’t sound British”.

Another item was about two British women who suffered traumatic injuries in an acid attack in Zanzibar, where they were working for a charity. The motive was not known but the report concentrated on tensions between Islam, the island’s main religion, and others, remarking on signs asking foreigners to respect the local culture and dress appropriately – covering up, rather than wearing skimpy outfits that would upset local people. It went on to say that the attack victims were, in fact, dressed appropriately at the time.

A third item put a spotlight on Switzerland, where race relations are deteriorating rapidly. It seems the authorities have been passing racial apartheid laws as ways of controlling immigration – and it was easy to imagine why this would be permitted after watching the report on the trouble Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest citizens of the United States of America, had buying a handbag there.

Oprah, in Switzerland to celebrate Tina Turner’s wedding, was continually told by a shop assistant that the item was “too expensive” for her. The knee-jerk conclusion for an onlooker is that the assistant was making a prejudiced judgement based on the fact that Ms Winfrey is not white.

So we were presented with three stories about racial tensions. In the UK, the issue was augmented with unwarranted accusations against people of foreign descent who were, in fact, born here. In Zanzibar the extra factor was the possibility that religious intolerance between Islam and others was behind the attack. And in Switzerland there was the out-and-out racism in the inference that a black woman could not possibly afford an expensive handbag.

These stories were indictments in their own right – made even more uncomfortable viewing by the fact that the news anchor for that bulletin was Mishal Husain who, although born in Northampton, has parents from Pakistan and is a Muslim. We can also expect her to be reasonably well-off, considering she has a high-profile job in television.

Vox Political has huge respect for Ms Husain. Her high-profile appointment as a presenter of Radio 4’s Today Programme is well-deserved and our only regret is that this will take her off our TV screens. She fronted these stories with good humour and a twinkle in her eye – which seems amazing restraint, considering the way they each highlight circumstances that could be applied to her.

There is no way of knowing what she thought of the developments she was chronicling and it would be inappropriate to ask. Having said that, did nobody else wonder what was going through Ms Husain’s mind when she told us the ASA said it had received many messages of support for the so-called “racist vans”?

There is no out-and-out party political message to this article; racism and religious intolerance can spring up among people on all parts of the political spectrum – and is an indictment against those who practise it, wherever it does.

Because it is something that may affect all of us, it is something that we can all fight. In the 21st century the thought that a person may be victimised because their skin is a different colour, or because they have different philosophical beliefs, makes a mockery of our claim to be civilised.

Don’t put up with it. Don’t sit in silence while others are attacked. Complain. Campaign. Turn back this ugly tide.

Otherwise, one day, you might wake up to find that it’s your turn to be the victim.