Everybody likes a good news story. And there’s no better good news than the arrival of a new baby. The proverbial ‘bundle of joy’.
The bundle of joy of course can turn into a … well, you know.
Babies were in the news last year … or rather baby boxes. Back in August 2017 the Scottish Government announced its intention give a Baby Box to all new mothers. A sturdy box that can double as a cot containing stacks of goodies for the newborn. A good news story you’d think?
Well not quite.
Sounds ominous doesn’t it, alarming even for mums to be. The actual news report was pretty negative. It contained a clip of someone called Frances Bates casting doubt on claims apparently made by the SNP. You can watch the clip below.
The then Scottish Govt Minister Mark McDonald was allowed to respond to the so-called warning later in the item. But the item had undoubtedly cast a cloud over what should have been a postive story for the Scottish government.
BBC Scotland had managed to turn a good news story into bad news. Has the BBC always been so negative about Baby Boxes? Take a look at the following BBC news report.
Now that’s what you call a positive feel-good start. Let’s see how the item progressed.
There’s no doubt that the selling point of the Baby Box is reducing infant mortality. The item continued.
This was a fluffy, cuddly, good news story – and the Baby Box was the star. The message was unambiguous. The Baby Box idea reduces infant mortality.
OK, I know what your saying. This was before the Lullaby Trust had issued its warning. And you’d be correct. But this wasn’t the only NHS Trust in England to introduce Baby Boxes. The North Middlesex hospital, Edmonton followed in September 2016. In May 2017 the Whittington NHS Trust became the third.
Since June 2016, three Trusts in England have introduced Baby Boxes. The role played by Baby Boxes in reducing infant death was a key reason for their introduction. The initiatives and the belief they helped reduce infant mortality received widespread media coverage.
So why didn’t the Lullaby Trust isue its warning during this time? It’s true that there’s no evidence that shows the Baby Box in isolation cuts infant mortality. The general view is that the box is a safer alternative than having a baby sleep in the same bed as one or more parents.
Indeed in May 2017 the Royal College of Midwives itself said that research showed giving new parents Baby Boxes could help to saves lives.
Queen Charlotte’s consultant obstetrician Dr Karen Joash said the boxes and the education resources that sit alongside had been proven to reduce infant mortality rates in Finland.
And that’s the key. The Baby Box is part of a package that together appears to prevent sudden infant death. There are many statements from other experts saying much the same thing.
But Reporting Scotland didn’t highlight any, instead concentrating on the Lullaby Trust warning.
One of the key issues was that the Lullaby Trust would no longer “endorse” Baby Boxes.
The Lullaby Trust endorsed Baby Boxes by allowing its leaflets to be included within the box. The charity withdrew its permission. But Lullaby Trust leadlets were never included in the Scottish Govt box as minister Mark McDonald makes clear in this Radio Scotland interview.
And it’s true. The Lullaby Trust doesn’t operate in Scotland. Indeed its Chief Executive Frances Bates wasn’t even talking about the Scottish Govt’s Baby Box at all when she issued her warning. She was talking about claims made by private companies that operate south of the border.
Neither the Scottish Government nor the SNP ever said that Baby Boxes in isolation prevent sudden infant death. The SNP referred to the Finnish model which of course includes the Baby Box, its contents and post natal education.
There was though one party which did indeed claim Baby Boxes had been proven to cut infant mortality, that party was the Lib Dems.
Why Reporting Scotland failed to include the statement from the Lib Dem MSP in its news item is not known.
BBC Scotland seized on comments from an English based Trust which were aimed at claims being made by private companies. Reporting Scotland turned it into an attack on the SNP and the Scottish Government. A good news story was turned into a bad news story.
There is one final piece of information that you may find interesting. The Chief Executive of the Lullaby Trust, Frances Bates, has links to the Labour party. Frances Bates was a special advisor to Ed Balls when the former Labour MP was a cabinet minister. In 2010 she was part of the campaign to have Balls elected leader of Labour. It may just be coincidence that the Lullaby Trust issued its Baby Box ‘warning’ just twelve days before the SNP administration rolled out its scheme.
How did Reporting Scotland eventually cover the Scottish Govt’s official Baby Box launch?
The twenty second item was the ninth news story on August 15th. Of greater importance was a social media threat to Neil Lennon and a Panda story from Edinburgh zoo.
On Thursday May 2018 the Scottish main stream media had yet another go at Baby Boxes.
The attack was of course promoted by BBC Scotland.
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