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Author Topic:  Data protection Issues  (Read 14602 times)

Rita

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Data protection Issues
« on: November 16, 2013, 09:34:38 PM »
Does anyone happen to know if all local radio stations have received an edict regarding "Data Protection Issues", because on Radio Merseyside personnel who are not contracted to the BBC, i.e. volunteers who assist some presenters by taking calls from listeners asking for requests or just wanting to chat because they are lonely or disabled and not able to go out, or answering questions put to them by the presenter, are now not allowed to answer the 'phones, even though they have been doing this for years.  As far as I am concerned, the volunteers have always been friendly and good mannered and not spoken out of place.  I can't believe that presenters (mainly the "freelancers") will be expected to answer the 'phones themselves, as well as look after their shows.  The 'phones are very busy and in the daytime shows there are a plethora of BBC staff on hand to carry out this work.
I wonder what has happened to bring this about? Some of the volunteers will remain in post until Christmas. I I would love to know what this is all about and what has brought this on.







Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 10:15:18 PM »
Dear Rita,

I agree that this is a serious issue.

I imagine it is down to compliance reasons(following Brand/Ross, I hope they realise what they did to the BBC and the need for everything to be checked with a clipboard? Maybe not their fault but this is the result)

The value of having someone able to man the phones on a BBC local radio station is fairly basic. The whole point is interaction and engagement and providing a service.


And the fact that it was down to unpaid volunteers to do that says much about the importance of BBC local radio in communities that they had to do that and much respect goes to those people. It also says much about the BBC and its management. There presumably is now no staff that could fulfil that vital role , when a presenter is on air? Why is that?


So what do we have now? BBC Merseyside unable to take calls, it is extreme stupidity to suggest that the presenters actually try and answer the phones as well, impossible.


The conclusion will be that they will broadcast without interaction, or just channel Mark Forrest, or even pre record output.


Shame on management for destroying public service broadcasting at the BBC and allowing the abuses that we have seen regarding public money.


Bit of rant there Rita, I am sorry it has been a difficult week!

I suggest that we wait for a full explanation from Sue Owen, ME of BBC Radio M AND she will need to explain her decision with clarity.

I will forward this thread to her for comment.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 10:17:21 PM by Tiger »

David Pearson

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2013, 11:59:01 AM »
There could be other reasons regarding the use of volunteers long term, possibly linked to employment law. Knowing a bit about compliance I don't think it's related to that. If anything, having fewer staff monitoring a programme would give the potential for more mistakes to happen. It might even be something like public liability insurance for having unpaid people on the premises long term. There are costs associated with volunteers other than actually paying them.

Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2013, 02:02:29 PM »
Possibly, David, but why is the reason given about data protection? I assume that means the personal details of callers? In which case there should be an easy resolution?

Considering that Radio Merseyside have operated in this way for years?

I suppose we will need to wait for the editor to reply.

But, apart from the technicals here, who is going to answer the phones and what is the implication if the answer is no one?
« Last Edit: November 17, 2013, 02:51:55 PM by Tiger »

David Pearson

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 03:35:45 PM »
Allowing access to people's personal data to a volunteer rather than a member of staff may well breach aspects of the data protection act. Just because something has operated in that way for years, it could be that a more robust data protection regime has been introduced recently, and volunteers somehow fall foul of that. As you say we will have to see what reply is given from the boss before being able to make any informed comment or judgement.

Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2013, 04:11:17 PM »
Yes, we will have to wait and see.

This is my email to Sue Owen.

"Dear Sue,

I am the administrator of a listener message board, which represents the
concerns of many listeners who have petitioned against cuts to BBC local
radio services. The BBC Radio Forum.


It has been reported that the use of volunteers on Radio Merseyside at off
peak hours are no longer able to answer phone calls. Given the nature of BBC
local radio and given that possibly it's most valuable asset is interaction
and engagement with communities this news is of serious concern.


Please can you explain the reasons for the decision made. I would be
grateful if you could also outline what will happen regarding telephone
contact with shows that had previously relied upon a volunteer. For example
are you going to deploy a BBC staff member to answer phones? Have you
previously invoked disclaimer tools that could be of use and if so why have
they failed?


I am sending you the thread from our Forum that deals with this issue,

http://www.bbclocalradioforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=906.msg5338;topicseen#msg5338


Thankyou in advance for your time and consideration,


Tamsin Vincent

BBC Radio Forum".

Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2013, 05:00:55 PM »
I have had a reply from Sue Owen, and it does appear to be about compliance and data protection issues.

Here it is.

"Dear Tamsin
Thanks for your email.
I wasn't aware of your Forum but have now had a look at the thread you mention. I believe the Rita who posted the first message on it may be Rita Leyland who has already been in touch with me about volunteers and who, in my absence, has received a reply from my Assistant Editor.

We are in the process of ending the use of volunteers to answer the phones for our programmes, or work in operational broadcast areas. This will bring us into line with just about every BBC local station and means we can quite rightly meet the BBC's compliance guidelines which include Data Protection and appropriate training regarding editorial practices.  We cannot and would not ask volunteers to take part in mandatory training which staff are required to undertake as part of their role on station. I would stress we are very grateful for the efforts of our volunteer phone answerers over the years and this change is no reflection on them, but rather about ensuring we meet our compliance standards.

The few programmes affected are off-peak music shows and by definition have smaller audiences and relatively little interaction. I do understand there will be some impact but given the level of calls and the recent savings local radio has to make, I hope you appreciate that I have to deploy staff members to programmes which are significantly busier in terms of listener contact. Sometimes we are caught between a rock and a hard place and a tough decision has to be made.

Presenters are able to answer phone calls from the studio while music is playing and this is common practice on many stations. But some presenters prefer not to and that is their choice.

It's also worth saying there are many different ways listeners can now connect with us though we genuinely do appreciate that not all listeners have access to email, Facebook, text etc.

I hope this helps explain the situation. Thanks again for getting in touch and giving me the opportunity to explain.
Kind regards
Sue

Sue Owen
Managing Editor
BBC Radio Merseyside
0151 708 5500
sue.owen@bbc.co.uk

Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2013, 07:56:51 PM »
I have made an interim reply to Sue Owen to ask her whether she has considered invoking a 2 way disclaimer to avoid the problem. There must be some sort of historical example that can be followed, for example those working as interns or as work experience apprentices,or even the systems that operate when celebrities man phone lines for charity events?


I understand that rules are there. But I would suggest that those rules are often ill thought out and are a knee jerk and probably need to be challenged. And examined properly for risk.


It is my opinion that the use of volunteers on Radio Mersyside is a very valuable asset to that station, given that Sue Owen has already said that she can not deploy a member of BBC staff to fulfil that role.


So we now have a situation where off peak shows will only take calls by the presenter on air, what if 2 callers phone up? each wanting to interact with the show, basically the presenter would have to have many ears and skills that would challenge even the most patient multi tasker and require the longest track in history to be played, if 3 people phoned up?


It is depressing that there is going to be a loss of a dedicated and free service by volunteers who have tried to keep a basic local service on air, often supporting vulnerable listeners.


It makes no sense.

(reason for edit  transtoria necessita)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2013, 11:21:07 PM by Tiger »

David Pearson

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2013, 09:30:17 PM »
I think in fairness to Sue Owen she has explained the reasons for the decision to stop using volunteers. As I said earlier, there are costs associated with having volunteers on a premises such as insurance. Celebrities and charity events are usually much, much bigger affairs and almost certainly supported by a big (paid for) back up team. I take Rita's original point about losing that "line of contact" but if a programme attracts only a small number of calls then I really do think the problems would be minimal. As for three pairs of hands, well the same would apply now if three callers ring at the same time - surely the phones are answered in sequence by the volunteers. Tiger, what do you mean by a "2 way disclaimer"? Would this be an on air announcement of some kind?

Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2013, 11:05:25 PM »
I agree, that Sue Owen has explained and has done that well  and promptly, there is no doubt. And I accept the points that she makes.

My point is a wider one. That there could be a way around such compliance, for a low risk off peak evening show. Considering that they have clearly set a precedent on RM for many years, and that includes the years post Brand/Ross when compliance became all . How many people before that sued the BBC for breach of the data protection act? or indeed have considered legal action because of volunteer use on RM or anywhere similar?


Yes, the option of 2 way disclaimer would probably have to be an on air statement, then followed by a follow up verbal agreement with the caller at the beginning of the call and the volunteers would have to sign a general disclaimer. I am sure that would not be beyond the legals at the BBC(would be a change from defending the executives?). It must be possible ,many publicly funded institutions employ volunteers and they do interact with the public   in lots of ways.


As to the BBC , here, if compliance is going to go this far, then where will it stop? For example if a caller is put on air and the presenter has a guest expert or whatever and names the caller and location(pretty normal) and that caller then complains that their name and location was aired , if the call goes wrong, what then? (Especially if the caller has given personal info to the expert during the call. )Or indeed spoken to the expert after the call.


I am sure no one has, because the public are not that stupid, likewise why would a caller complain about a volunteer taking their call, they have already consented to a public contribution. by ringing in. Or is it the case here, that something has happened on Radio Merseyside which has triggered this? That might explain a problem.

It just seems such a shame, that there is such corporate fear of risk to the detriment of an interactive service, when that service cannot afford to deploy staff. No one wins..






Rita

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2013, 01:21:28 AM »
Hi Tamsin,
I don't agree with Sue's statement that "the few programmes affected are off-peak music shows and by definition have smaller audiences and relatively little interaction".  That is a nonsense quite frankly.  On many occasions, these "off-peak music shows" as she calls them, have very much interaction with their audiences; and the volunteers who answer the 'phones are hard put to get to everybody; indeed sometimes there are 2 people answering the 'phones, i.e. the volunteer and a BBC staff member.  Also I would like to know why this always seem to happen to shows involving the "freelance" presenters, who are barely acknowledged and not appreciated by the "management". - FACT!
I agree with you that something appears to have happened on the station that has triggered this sorry state of affairs, but Sue won't be telling us what it is in a hurry will she?

David Pearson

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2013, 08:27:54 AM »
I agree that the situation here is not ideal, and it is a great shame that compliance has seemingly got to be such an issue since Ross/Brand. However, there are always two sides to the story. If you remember many years ago BBC Local stations would often do long, drawn out (and often terrible) competitions on the air. They gave away silly prizes like pens and t-shirts from commercial companies and frankly weren't very good. Much of that stopped after the (unrelated) scandal of competitions being rigged on Radio 1. Again, nothing massively serious, but enough to make the BBC change its entire policy on competitions so it could be seen to be more open. Sadly I think the example being given here is really about cutting resources here and there. It is happening in all public services and yes, the customer is the loser.

AndrewU

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2013, 09:21:47 AM »
I also agree that this does not seem ideal. Maybe this is really about a bit of cost cutting, as David says. It's certainly true that volunteers are not 'free' when looking at the overall costs of running an organisation. But, looking at the comments in Tiger's email from Sue Owen, I would like to understand the comment:

We cannot and would not ask volunteers to take part in mandatory training which staff are required to undertake as part of their role on station.

This seems odd. Community radio runs through volunteers who appear to be well trained (and some stations even run their own courses). If a certain standard of training has been found to be needed, I agree that it's not acceptable to use volunteers that haven't done the training. So why can't the BBC run some appropriate level of training so that the volunteers are covered? It could be a cut-down version of the courses that the full-time staff do, targeted to the work that the volunteers are doing. If needed, the volunteers could also sign an agreement so that they formally agree to a code of conduct.

I also wonder whether some of this might actually have been offered, but perhaps the volunteers felt unhappy about being required to attend courses or signing up to what might seem like silly paperwork? If I had been doing a volunteer job for years, I'm sure I would feel that way too. But that's the way things are now.

So, in these cost-constrained days of the 'big society', surely the BBC should be doing more to bring in volunteers, trained to work in a professional manner. We have an 'all England show', specifically to save money, but all over the country there are volunteers in community radio doing it for nothing. Shouldn't BBC LR be giving opportunities to some of this talent?

Tiger

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2013, 07:01:57 PM »
Some really good points here. I will send this thread again to Sue O.

Andrew, you have captured the essence of the issue perfectly. Your comments about the big society and the use of those in the community who have skills is right.


And we are only talking about reasonable risk here. Everyday ,volunteers work in schools and hospitals and the risk there is potentially high and it works because it has to.


Those taking calls alongside a presenter at the BBC is low risk and there should be a solution.


Also it will not just be off peak evening shows that are impacted. There is a feature called the "A Team" on RM which is a trouble shooting feature to address problems of the audience. That is run by volunteers so will presumably cease. Again , such a shame, because of red tape and someone with a clipboard getting nervous.

Rita

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Re: Data protection Issues
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2013, 12:35:40 AM »
Hi Tiger, The "A" Team isn't a show.  As far as I know they work at Radio Merseyside and there is a special telephone number to ring if any listeners have a problem and the "A" Team endeavour to solve it if possible and very successful they seem to be too.  I think it would be very unlikely that their "service" would be axed.  I can only assume that the members of the "A Team" have had some training - even though they are volunteers.


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