The failure to ignore Amazons response

WATOYesterday on World at One the apparent failure by Amazon to pay meaningful tax levels was discussed by Jonny Dymond and a couple of other people at the beginning of the programme. As Jonny pointed out the profit from Amazon has tripled but they are paying less tax than before. This information comes a few days after I blogged, pointing out how the Yorkshire local councils are all going to use Amazon as their single procurement source, something that will destroy many companies in that area. The reality is that most of the goods that Amazon sells are taxed in Luxembourg and their primary UK taxed activities are the logistics and customer services.

Of the two interviews, the first was Heather Self of Blick Rothenburg who as a tax specialist was unable to confirm that Amazon had done anything wrong. The second speaker was Amanda Gearing from the GMB Union who expressed serious concerns about the tax elements even though she conceded that she was not an expert on tax. At the end of the two interviews Jonny Dymond explained that they had asked Amazon for an interview but that ‘no one was available’. However because Amazon were not ‘available for an interview’ they sent a statement which Jonny read out which failed to add very much to the piece.

I personally find such responses from Government Departments and large businesses both unbelievable and also deeply frustrating. One imagines that every Government Department and every large business includes a large number of workers who have been highly trained in media engagement and so there are always people available for interviews. However sometimes the departments and companies lie because they don’t want to be interviewed. Yet they are usually happy to publish a bland statement which can be read out as if that is acceptable.

One of the final points in the interview with Amanda Gearing was her claim that the health and safety elements at Amazon were to be questioned. She referred to how over a given period 115 Ambulances had been called to a UK Amazon Warehouse compared to 6 at a local Tesco Warehouse in the same period. She specifically mentioned cases such as exhaustion and electrocution. It was clear that this element of the interview was not expected by Jonny or Amazon as there had been no reference to it in the statement he read out. However literally as he finished reading the main statement he then stated that another statement had arrived referring to their health and safety record and denying the claims made by Heather Gearing. This second statement arrived literally 90 seconds after she made the claim. Thus although there was no one available for interview, there were people listening to the interview able to pull together a statement in 1.5 minutes.

My personal view is that if agencies are not willing to come for interview and simply offer a pre prepared statement, that they should be denied access to the rest of the programme. After all one person in the studio is there to interact with the programme and can of course respond, a huge legal team at the end of an email link can deal with matters in a very different manner and that takes the interview into a very different place. #WATO should have denied a hidden team access to the programme as this would then mean that they would ensure that there was always someone available for interview!

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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