There are certain papers that are clearly less objective than others and the nature of a free press allows for this but alongside this having a free press allows for subjective viewpoints to be put across in a way that come across to some readers as objective.
A simple search of the words “welfare” and “benefits” on The Daily Mail provides these headlines:
Couple cheated taxpayer out of £55,000 in benefits to pay for luxury cruises and personalised number plates
From hard workers to shirkers: How Benefits Street was home to tradesman and working class labourers before culture of dependency set in
Benefits cheat told officials she wasn’t married but was caught out when her husband applied for a loan
Benefits Christmas: Single mother Eloise spends £3,000 to give her four children EVERYTHING they want for Christmas. And guess what? British taxpayers are paying for it
Benefits cheat swindled £38,000 in state payouts while entering secret £27,000 premium bond stash in £1m monthly draw
These stories are a prime example of how the welfare state and those on benefits are portrayed in the mainstream media. The words associated with welfare and benefits are most commonly cheats, british tax payer and fraud. The influence of these words on the reader gives the idea that everyone that receives benefits is a burden on the taxpayer and also a cheat. 30% of stories focus on the idea of benefit fraud when the rate of fraud has not risen above 3% as recent research at the University of Kent revealed. There is rarely a story in the media about someone who receives benefits without cheating the system when there undoubtedly are a lot more people who benefit from the welfare state without scamming the system. The headlines above show a clear trend that affects public opinion, in much the same vein that not all MPs were responsible for irresponsible expenses not everyone, in fact a small minority, of people on benefits are scamming the system and it is arguable that it is a convenient myth created for political purpose. The stigma that this false image of poorer people creates is detrimental as it creates a divide within a society but it also makes those that are in need of benefits hesitant about applying for them as Randeep Ramesh states in his article on The Guardian. In the article he not only writes about thes stigma from the media but the mistakes made in political rhetoric:
The researchers tested the accuracy of recent government statements and found them lacking. The report highlights that ministers – including the chancellor, George Osborne – had claimed there were families taking £100,000 a year in housing benefit. In fact there were only five such families in the UK.
This represents that stark irresponsibility by both the media and politicians. George Osbourne’s campaign that differentiates between “skivers and strivers” has permeated the news throughout the last few years and changes public perception and opinion in favour of welfare cuts and reform.