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Channel 4 have come under fierce criticism after it’s popular program Gogglebox, aired a segment that had been planned in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Viewers were shown the show’s participants reacting to a DWP advert on Workplace Pensions but as it was planned can we trust it wasn’t also scripted?
Gogglebox is a show on Channel 4 that shows people watching and reacting to various programs that have been on TV in the previous week. In the beginning it was considered refreshing but as time has gone on, many have viewed it being more about the show’s regulars who have garnered quite a following themselves.
Throughout the year there are also “celebrity specials”, such as one involving Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and British Actress Jessica Hynes.
DWP and Gogglebox Work Together
Tonight saw Director of Communications at the DWP, Lisa Hunter tweet out
“So proud to watch our partnership with @C4Gogglebox come to life tonight, after months of hard work. The families on the most famous sofas in Britain talking pensions…”
There are many things I find wrong with this statement but the most obvious is the fact that Channel 4 and the DWP worked on this for “months“.
The advert shown about Workplace Pensions has been about for some time. It should have taken little time and effort to show the advert and record the reactions of “the families on the most famous sofas in Britain”.
To state that this took months indicates that planning and coordination had to go into this. It raises questions such as;
- Was the segment scripted?
- Were unwanted reactions cleansed?
- Did the DWP control the narrative?
Journalist and Political Commentaor Steve Topple who currently writes on his own website; MrTopple.com was who brought this to my attention.
His first reaction to the DWP employees tweet was; “Oh.My.God.” He then followed up with a second response which is bang on point.
I approached Steve for a comment and his response was scathing of Channel 4;
“The co-working of Channel 4 and the DWP represents a new low for the publicly-funded broadcaster. It also represents a ratcheting-up by the department of its continued propaganda war over both its public image and its policies.
“The DWP is obviously not content with using completely unrepresentative, pop culture-friendly claimants in its online promotional material for Universal Credit. Remember Charlie, part-time actor and fitness guru? So now, it’s targeting the hyper-reality TV audience in a bid to seep the notion that it’s a caring, benevolent force into the public psyche.
“This is the 21st century spin-off to Noam Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’. But it’s on Viagra. The DWP is intentionally targeting an audience of reality TV fans: people who quite likely watch this to escape the daily horrors of their everyday lives, switching off from politics while being unaware what the cause of those horrors is. It is subjecting them to subliminal PR with the goal being to eventually nullify any hostility they have towards it.
“What’s next? Couples on First Dates discussing the advantages of Universal Credit? Hollyoaks saying a disabled character ‘deserved that benefit sanction’?“Channel 4 should hang its head in shame. But in reality, with the state of the shitshow that’s now The Last Leg, we should be unsurprised that it is metaphorically noshing-off the DWP.
You can also listen to Mr Topple every Sunday on his podcast Topple Uncaged which I will be appearing on this week. It gives a fresh take on events of the week and also has an extremely popular music segment.
What Topple has said is exactly right. The DWP have used Gogglebox intentionally. The responses given by those in the program give the appearance of this lovey dovey system.
In reality, the DWP have been under fire on pensions. They are still living under the cloud created by the Women Against State Pension Inequality commonly known as WASPI.
WASPI are the campaign group who are fighting against the way in which the State Pension Age (SPA) for women born in the 1950s.
It is not that they are against the equalisation of the SPA, it was the fact that the implementation of the rise was accelerated with little to no notice leaving women about to retire being told they have another six years to work.
If Gogglebox was going to cover anything about pensions, it should have been this. Channel 4 have just joined the BBC in being an instrument for the government.
A once promising channel for alternative opinions lost to corporate greed.