Welcome to the new blog of Better for Everyone, the UK call centre with intelligence, integrity and initiative based in Bradford, West Yorkshire!

The traditional call centre approach has earned the industry its awful sweatshop image and reputation for terrible customer service. I knew there was potential for something much better and that creating my own company with a better, more ethical approach to call centre services was the right thing to do.

Through this blog, we’ll keep you informed of our news and let you know our thoughts on what’s going on in the industry and in management generally, so do keep coming back.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The BBC - being top of the TV Ratings or measuring what matters?

The BBC along with all the other media recently received a press release from Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) that told them "Latest findings by researchers from Bristol University . . . confirm that 'the safest place for a baby to sleep is in its own cot'. This four-year study . . . found that in half of all unexpected deaths of children in the south-west of England, babies had died sleeping with a parent or carer."

Of major concern to FSID, the release continued, was that 25% of mothers in a survey "were not persuaded that bedsharing can increase the risk of cot death”. Had the BBC actually dug a bit deeper, perhaps reviewing the research findings or speaking to medical experts that were involved in the study, they too may have not been convinced either!

However, the BBC did not do this, rather they whipped the story up into a frenzy, reporting on its Breakfast programme that half of cot deaths are linked to bed-sharing but many parents are sceptical about the risk.

Yet within hours, Peter Fleming, one of the eminent authors of the Bristol research, was blasting the media for their misrepresentation of his research. He is reported in Friday’s Guardian as saying

"My view is that the positive message of this study is that it says don't drink or take drugs and don't smoke, particularly for breastfeeding mothers. We did not find any increased risk from bedsharing. It is a very different message from the one the media picked up. You can say that half the deaths occurred while babies slept with their parents. You could also say that half the deaths occurred while babies were alone in their cots, but I don't see anybody saying, 'Don't put your baby in a cot.'"

es – you read this right!! The Bristol study found that 54% of cot deaths occurred while the baby was co-sleeping with a parent. However, although the risk was very high if the parent had fallen asleep on the sofa, it was actually only significant among those in a bed if the parent had drunk more than two units of alcohol or had been taking drugs.

FSID defended their position arguing that this was too complicated and a simple message was needed (I suspect if they only had a small amount of media coverage there may be some mileage in this argument). However, the Department of Health, co-writers of the release, it could be argued, have the opportunity to spend time with mums to be and new mums, in which they could give fair and accurate information.

So why, might you ask, would the BBC, whose mission statement is “To enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain”, and has its first corporate value stated as “Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest”, seek to mislead their viewers and online readers in such a way?

Whilst their stated purpose may be to inform in an independent, impartial and honest way, clearly there is something else at play…

I wonder how the BBC manages its performance against its purpose, because from the outside looking in (and being sick to death of “Strictly Come Dancing” being rammed down my throat morning, noon & night), it would appear that they measure something very different… perhaps TV ratings are the key measure being focused on here. But the BBC needs to be careful – if they focus too much on being top of the TV ratings, arguably something largely unrelated to their purpose, they are in danger of creating a ‘de facto’ purpose ( for example “to be number one in TV ratings”).

Before the problem gets too far out of control, the BBC needs to find out how its employees understand their purpose and how that understanding is driving their behaviour and, hence, affecting the performance of the BBC in enriching people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.

Whilst the press release was flawed in the key message it pushed forward, the media, particularly the BBC were negligent in their reporting. The BBC must learn to measure what matters to its viewers so it can really be considered to be “independent, impartial and honest” – but until then, this blogger remains sceptical about everything she sees in the media due to the same old issues of confusing correlation with cause, together with selective attention....