A PRWeek/OnePoll survey (page 30) shows that 51 per cent of respondents believe the BBC's reputation has declined in the past 20 years, while 39 per cent think it has gone downhill in the past two years.
The news comes as PRWeek can reveal that the BBC's PR budgets will shrink from £15.66m in 2011-12 to £12.67m in the current financial year. The BBC says it does not plan to employ any PR agencies during 2012-13.
As of 31 March 2012, there were 146 staff in the BBC's comms division, down from 181 during 2010-11 after a redundancy programme.
The figures have been released as part of PRWeek's 'state of the public sector' review.
But a BBC spokesman said independent research by Kantar Media found that audiences currently have the highest impression of the BBC since records began, with 78 per cent 'glad the BBC exists'. He added that the comms team was 'pivotal' to securing these approval levels despite budget cuts as a result of the licence fee freeze.
For a more detailed breakdown of the figures, go to prweek.com/uk