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On the same day the United Nations report on Extreme Poverty was released. the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) embarked on their deceptive puff piece on Universal Credit. However, all did not go according to plan. Activists and unions send the host paper, the Metro Free Newspaper, a strong message by starting a campaign to bin the papers.
I wrote last week about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) covert advertising campaign they planned about Universal Credit. Today saw the first of the “advertorials” appear in the Metro Free Newspaper.
MPs and charities have been highly critical of the DWP’s planned advertising campaign to promote Universal Credit.
The first instalment also just so happened to come on the same day that Professor Philip Alston from the United Nations released his full report on extreme poverty and human rights issues in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. You can read more about that here.
Metro Free Faces Backlash
Last night it emerged that today marked the beginning of the Universal Credit campaign. It soon became clear that as well as the DWP facing criticism, the host paper; The Metro Free Paper was in for a beating.
By early morning, the hashtag; #DumpMetroDwpLies was gaining traction on twitter. At first well know welfare activists and campaigners showed examples of them collecting swathes of the papers and dumping them in the bin. Don’t worry the recycling bins.
Branches from Unite the Union made sure to inform their members about the deceptive piece being run asking them to collect and dump the free papers.
The official Twitter account of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) helped out by retweeting about the days action.
The Public and Commercial Services Unions (PCS) represents staff who work in DWP Universal Credit contact centres. They released a scathing statement on the advertisement.
What could be one of the most important interventions from the Metro’s perspective came from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
They released a statement on their website;
NUJ NEC representative Natasha Hirst said:
“It is a gross injustice and an insult to all disabled people who have shared their stories and to the journalists who have ethically reported on them, for the DWP to dismiss and misrepresent the appalling impact of their damaging system of Universal Credit.
“The DWP campaign to disseminate inaccurate and misleading communications about the Governments Universal Credit system is funded by taxpayers’ money and in breach of the Government Communication Service propriety guidelines.”
Ann Galpin, chair of NUJ disabled members’ council and co-chair of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, said:
“It is heartening to see wide support for NUJ members who face undue pressure from editors and managers to breach our own guidance on ethical reporting and content creation. It’s not 1984, attempts by the Government to push out propaganda cannot go unchallenged.
“We are appalled that these misleading wraparounds and features have appeared in the Metro today, coinciding with the release of Philip Alston’s report on poverty in the UK, which heavily criticises austerity and welfare reform.”
The Metro is the UK most read daily newspaper. This is due to the fact that it is free and is placed on buses and trains and other public spaces across England and some parts of Wales.
To have such a major rebuttal from the UK’s Union for Journalists is pretty damning.
The fact that the Amber Rudd thinks it’s okay to spend over £250,000 on a single advert shows that the government are so out of touch.
The fact the Metro thought it was okay to run a highly deceptive piece on Universal Credit the same day a damning report was released is much more telling.
The DWP’s campaign is due to run for a further nine weeks.
Make sure from now on if you see a Metro Free Paper you pick as many up as possible and put them in a recycling bin.