Channel 4 to call in agency crises support as scrutiny of media industry intensifies

Channel 4 is understood to be in talks with a number of agencies to ensure its comms function is fully able to deal with any corporate crises the broadcaster may face.

Usain Bolt: forms C4’s logo at the World Championships
Usain Bolt: forms C4’s logo at the World Championships

The search comes as the UK media industry is placed under intense political and regulatory scrutiny following the News International hacking scandal. The BBC has also been subjected to fierce media criticism in recent times, largely due to its public funding.

However, there is no suggestion that the brief is in relation to any specific forthcoming event and is more focused on ensuring the broadcaster has sufficient resources and the right processes and systems in place to deal with any corporate incident.

A spokesman for Channel 4 confirmed that an informal process had been launched and a handful of agencies had been asked to tender, but that no appointment had yet been made.

The spokesperson commented: ‘As with other big companies, we sometimes seek to get an outside view on the day-to-day systems we have in place.’

The most notable comms crisis faced by the Channel in recent years was the Big Brother ‘racism row’ in 2007 that spiralled into a major international story. More recently the channel came under fire for broadcasting controversial content in comedian Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights late last year.

The C4 comms function has gone through significant changes in recent times, with longstanding PR head Matt Baker stepping down last summer after 12 years with the broadcaster.

Baker left as chief executive David Abraham restructured the broadcaster resulting in cutting its senior management team by 25 per cent. The comms department was to make Dan Brooke head of its combined marketing, comms and corporate relations functions.

In June, Channel 4 promoted Jane Fletcher to the role of controller of press and publicity, and last month named Sophie Jones as head of corporate relations.

The broadcaster previously retained Maitland for its corporate comms work and used Citigate to help argue against a potential merger with Five back in 2009. But  Channel 4 does not retain any corporate agency at the present time.

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