Opinion: Leader - Pressure intensifies on BBC's PR teams

The BBC is ending the year, as it began it, under the public microscope.

The measures announced this week by director-general Mark Thompson are redolent of a political party unveiling its manifesto ahead of an election.

Thompson has promised to slash costs, increase quality and devolve more responsibility to the regions. The Beeb's own D-Day comes in 2006 when its charter comes up for renewal and it seeks to preserve the licence fee.

The BBC has to juggle a raft of different, often competing demands from stakeholders - government, Ofcom and, of course, the public. It is expected to deliver the kind of innovative programming insufficiently served by the commercial sector, but maintain a popular appeal and refrain from appearing elitist.

The very visible funding mechanism of the licence fee itself gives free reign for people to attack it.

Union criticisms that 3,000 job cuts will damage the quality of its output not withstanding, Thompson's announcement this week just about rode the BBC's PR tightrope. On the upside, for example, plans to relocate jobs have been lauded by the Manchester media set.

But as the axe nonetheless hangs over thousands of jobs, its internal communications challenge is the more pressing.

It has to make its staff understand the need for change or face disillusioned or soon-to-be-former BBC journalists briefing its commercial rivals against it. Little more than that could sour the mood for charter renewal.

PRCA CATEGORY WILL BENEFIT SMALL FIRMS

The PRCA's new 'Observer' membership category is a welcome lowering of the barrier to entry.

Consultancies less than two years old with five or fewer staff can now join. As the survival rate of small businesses remains notoriously low, the PRCA's efforts to provide more firms with contract nous and legal advice will help ensure the talents of entrepreneurs are better able to stay in the PR industry.

prweek@haynet.com.

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