Free Advertising At BBC Education

Despite its Reithian foundations, the BBC and its Education journalists in particular seem to be dishing out free ad space.

In ‘New Exam Weapon Against Exam Cheating‘ the Beeb declare that new computerised techniques devised by Cambridge Assessment will be able to better spot exam cheating. And for that we should all be grateful.

However, Cambridge Assessment’s marketing/sales & PR team must have gone home on Friday extremely happy given the space that the BBC Education article had devoted to their ‘new’ computerised technique.

Even more strangely, in the very same article there’s nothing to suggest that this is news at all for at one point we’re told: “Statistical analysis is already widely used in multiple-choice tests to catch out cheats.” Then why bother reporting this PR plant in the first place?

It’s not as if it was a slow news day what with daily attacks on the UK’s public education system waged by the Tories.

If the largest news organisation on the planet – the Beeb – employs people who can’t spot a product press release then so much for their quality and so much for Reith.

Cambridge Assessment is a company like any other. The Beeb shouldn’t
be promoting its products. Like the ‘Facebook can improve results’
nonsense story of the past, this simply does a company’s marketing for free.

Sorry. Not free, actually, as British licence payers pay for the Beeb. So, in effect, the very same licencees are paying for Cambridge Assessment’s advertising!

The only balance that can be found in the article is when the OCR
are asked to chip in. But obviously bemused if not bored by this non-news story the only reply the OCR could come up with was no more than: “Another weapon in our armoury is always welcome” (i.e. tell us something we don’t know!).

There is then a peculiar whiff around this story. And if we were one of the many other exam providers vying for UK public funds, we’d be pretty miffed with this freebie for Cambridge Assessment.

What could explain this error of judgement? Perhaps knowing the difference between a product press release and a real scoop is not on BBC training manuals anymore.

No wonder Murdoch hates the Beeb.


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