Training focus will keep broadcasters on the right track

Phone-in scandals and misleading competitions have led to huge fines and blighted the image of broadcasters, writes Peter Block. But, he argues, training can help turn the tide.

Economic woes prompted the UK media to bill the past season as a ‘Summer of discontent’ – but it is the fallout from 2007’s ‘Summer of deceit’ that’s still hitting broadcasters in the pocket.

The £400,000 fine handed to the BBC by Ofcom for industry code breaches – largely fake TV and radio phone-ins and misleading competitions – takes fines from the regulator to almost £11.5m over the past year.

Ofcom found that the BBC failed to have “adequate management oversight” of its compliance and training procedures to ensure the audience was not misled, anad showed large fines work wonders in focusing organisations’ attention on the importance of learning and development. After all, well-trained and knowledgeable staff minimise the risk of such costly slip-ups.

Talent development

It takes an intelligent industry to recognise the role of training and development in ensuring employee skills are fit for purpose – but there are perhaps few sectors in which continual talent development is more crucial than in the broadcast industry.

The media landscape is constantly changing and broadcasting remains at the forefront of this change, from the opportunities of new media and new technology to the competition for audiences and revenue. One thing is clear: the future will require even better trained and skilled people. Talent management will be crucial to survival.

Key issues affecting training in the sector will be addressed at the Learning & Development in Broadcasting Conference 2008 on 7 October (see for details).

The event will also be an opportunity for delegates to swap information on best practice – and despite the raft of recent misdemeanors and subsequent fines, it seems that much does exist within broadcast companies.

Good practice

The latest BTSR Training & Skills Report 2007 showed considerable good practice. The area of new staff training was particularly encouraging, with 75% of organisations achieving ‘medium’ or ‘high’ levels of provision, typified by a structured, comprehensive induction programme that often included job shadowing and involvement of senior management in training.

Neither company size nor level of budget was an effective measure of training and development performance. The companies scoring highly across the measures are those with a real interest, recognition and input to the learning and development of staff at the highest level.

We must encourage leaders to engage with the future, and the skills and development necessary to keep the UK broadcast industry at the cutting edge of the world’s creative economy.

Increased audience fragmentation and declining advertising revenues obviously have the potential to reduce the money available for training. But ‘cost savings’ made on learning and development are likely to pale into insignificance if they result in Ofcom demanding more seven-figure cheques.

Indeed, the BBC responded by establishing a staff training programme, technical protections, guidance to programme makers on competitions and a strict code of conduct.

Peter Block is executive director of Broadcast Training & Skills Regulator (BTSR)

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