BBC seeks corporate and public affairs chief as licence fee storm looms

The BBC is recruiting for a group director of corporate affairs to help it navigate the forthcoming licence fee negotiations against a backdrop of increasing scrutiny by the Government, Parliament and regulators.

The BBC's group director of corporate affairs will join at a turbulent moment for the corporation (pic credit: Getty)
The BBC's group director of corporate affairs will join at a turbulent moment for the corporation (pic credit: Getty)

The person appointed to the role will lead the BBC’s corporate and public affairs strategy, including government relations, relationships with regulators and all media and external comms.

The post-holder will report to BBC director-general Tim Davie, who took up his role last month. They will also sit on the corporation’s executive committee.

All comms, corporate affairs and policy roles at the BBC, including its director of comms, John Shield, will report to the person appointed to the role.

Licence fee and Royal Charter

The BBC’s funding, via its licence fee, is under review by the Government, with a fresh deal to be negotiated next year and in place by 2022, ahead of a wider review of its Royal Charter in 2027.

The new group director will be expected to lead the BBC’s engagement with stakeholders, including parliamentarians, to make the corporation’s case for a sustainable licence fee. They will also lead on policy development in the forthcoming negotiations.

Competition and scrutiny

The corporation said it is operating in an increasingly competitive landscape and its mission to provide a universal service for audiences across the UK was challenged by new technologies and changes to audience behaviour.

Meanwhile, scrutiny of the corporation by the Government, devolved administrations, regulators and other stakeholders is also on the rise.

The BBC said it needed someone to “respond confidently to that scrutiny and engage stakeholders with its vision for the future of public service broadcasting.”

The corporation has come in for criticism by politicians and competitors on a range of issues in recent years, from the licence fee and the salaries of its presenters, to the gender pay gap.

Its news output has also been the subject of accusations of bias from both sides of the political divide.

The Government has refused to put a minister up on the BBC’s Newsnight programme since last year and ministers have only recently returned to appearing on the flagship BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

The right candidate

The corporation said it was looking for an “excellent communicator, capable of synthesising the complex into the simple”, and that the job required someone who has an “outstanding understanding and experience of navigating the UK’s political and media landscapes”.

The corporation said the job was a new role. In fact it is modelled on the one held by former Labour MP and minister James Purnell, who was brought in as director of strategy and digital at the BBC in 2013 ahead of previous licence fee and charter negotiations.

The job spec states that the new role is for someone who is not perceived as partisan, but a BBC insider told PRWeek that the corporation was looking for someone who was more right-leaning than Purnell on the political spectrum and who had sufficient sway with the Government.

Applications for the role have now closed and the appointment process is expected to take months to complete.

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