Effective quality

Date of publication: May 1, 1994

Abstract:

The BBC World Service has been developing a series of performance indicators which permit its activities to be assessed, particularly in comparison with its major competitors in the international radio broadcasting arena. Some of these address questions about the audience. Some are relatively straightforward and deal with the numbers and location of listeners, the regularity of listening and audience demographics. This paper addresses the problem of providing indicators of appreciation of programme or service quality. From the BBC's perspective in particular, the degree to which listeners trusted what they heard was of particular importance. Whereas audience measures can be used in broadly similar ways in different countries and cultures, assessing the perceived quality of service globally runs up against the problem of differences in meaning and interpretation in different cultures. What was needed firstly was an approach which allowed respondents to define in their own terms what they meant by trust and programme quality, using their criteria and priorities. Secondly we needed to find ways of quantifying this in a comparable way across cultures. The methodology which has been developed to solve this problem employs a technique developed by psychologists at Leeds University's Family Research Centre which combines attribution theory with current concepts of discourse analysis. A series of group discussions held in different locations produce a series of causal attributional statements from which it is possible to map the underlying structure of values applied to the area of international broadcasting. Analysis of these identifies the two kinds of values which appear to surround international broadcasting - "intrinsic" values to do with approval, and "empowering" values to do with listening. It also produces measures of the relative strength and salience of the components of these values in different cultural milieux. The second stage is to develop a series of agree/disagree statements derived from the values generated in different cultural settings which can be used on representative sample surveys. From this second stage, measures of the Effective Quality of the BBC's services and those of its major competitors are achieved. These are made comparable by the application of weighting criteria derived from the salience and strength of the relevant values in each cultural setting.

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