Why did the BBC lie about Clegg’s Youth Contract?
I was listening Radio 5 last night (Friday), to see how Sunny Hundal was getting on with a phone-in debate about the pension strikes, and heard the 11.30pm news bulletin. As a result, I have written this letter of complaint to the BBC.
I write to complain about your Radio 5 news bulletin broadcast at 11.30pm on Friday 25th November, during the Stephen Nolan show, in which the newsreader said the following (from 1hr 34mins 06 secs):
Employers are to be offered subsidies worth a billion pounds over three years to take on more 18 to 24 year olds. Companies will be paid more than 2,000 pounds every time they take on someone new.
This is a false statement.
Earlier on Friday 25th November the Department of Work and Pensions had issued a press release setting out five elements to the Youth Contract, with a total budget of £1bn. The five elements are:
1) “160,000 job subsidies available worth up to £2,275 each for businesses who take on an 18-24 year-old from the Work Programme”;
2) “An extra 250,000 Work Experience places over the next three years”;
3) “At least 20,000 extra incentive payments worth £1500 each for employers to take on young people as apprentices”;
4) “Extra support through Jobcentre Plus in the form of weekly, rather than fortnightly, signing-on meetings, more time to talk to an adviser and a National Careers Service interview”. The cost for this is identifed as £50m in the press release notes;
5) A “new £150m programme to provide support to some of our most vulnerable 16-17 year olds NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) from 2012.
The DWP press release is misleading, giving no budget for the 250,000 Work Experience places (200, 000 of which are backloaded to 2013/14 and 2014/15).
However, what is clear is that the current Work Experience programme (No.2) does not involve an employer subsidy (see the DWP employer guidance on Work Experience). Nor do the Jobcentre support (No.4) the NEET programme (No.5) elements of the programme involve any subsidy.
Thus, the only employer subsidies are for 160,000 jobs under the Work Programme (No.1) and for the 20,000 apprentice incentives (No. 3), though the latter is not referred to as a subsidy and of course is for people outside the 18-24 age range indicated in your news bulletin.
The combined budget for these elements is (160,000 x £2,275) + (20,000 x £1,500) = £394 million.
This is just 39.4% of the overall £1bn youth contract budget. To say therefore that “Employers are to be offered subsidies worth a billion pounds” is simply incorrect.
It is not acceptable for the BBC to mislead the public in this way. It seems likely that the overall budget of £1bn has been chosen by the government in order to mirror the last government’s £1bn Future Jobs Fund, and in providing false information like this the BBC is showing clear political bias.
I accept that journalists and presenters may occasionally misinterpret press releases in the course of programme commentary and discussion, especially when they are presented with information from government which actively seeks to obfuscate, as in this case. However, there can surely be no excuse for the delivery of false information in regular news bulletins. The press release had been available all day, and it is very poor journalism by the BBC not to have reviewed it in sufficient detail as to see what the actual subsidy amounts announced are.
I ask that the BBC now publicly retract the statement it put out in the 11.30pm bulletin, and any other bulletin in which it was broadcast, and make a public apology for misleading the public.
Further, I ask that the BBC uses its journalistic resources to enquire of the DWP why it did not, in its press release provide a budget figure for its Work Experience placements, and broadcast the DWP response on the Stephen Nolan show. If the other budget elements of the Youth Contract are accurate, the 250,000 placements, taking up the remainder of the £1bn budget, will cost (£406 million/250,000) £1, 624 each. This seems very high for an eight week placement, when compared to the £2,275 figure given for each 6 month job subsidy.