Editorial: BBC needs to deliver its core message

The communications challenges facing the BBC as it welcomes back prodigal son Mark Thompson as director-general would surely be considered daunting in an organisation less convinced of its own value. They fall broadly into two categories - internal morale-building and lobbying for charter renewal.

The corporate view seems to be that the internal communications task has been overemphasised. The staff response to the departures of D-G Greg Dyke and chairman Gavyn Davies was less a crisis of confidence than outrage at the injustice of it all. There was animus at what many felt was the craven attitude of stand-in boss Mark Byford, but the internal morale-building campaign led by Dyke worked, so this sort of concern can safely be set aside.

What matters now is much more important - the BBC's very existence, as secured temporarily in 1996 through the ten-year renewal of its royal charter. Next month will see the BBC submit its response to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's consultation on charter review, and the importance of the comms function to that process cannot be overstated.

Crucially, this is a political decision that can be influenced by the tone of public opinion. Recent polls suggest there remains a fund of good will and trust in the corporation that governments and businesses can only dream of. But senior staff at the BBC privately accept that for strategic communications reasons, the effort they put into defending the BBC's editorial independence during the Hutton Inquiry shaded into whitewashing clear evidence of editorial error. The two, in short, became unacceptably entangled.

And yet the former issue would have been key anyway. The core message going forward is still one of independence, of quality and public service.

It is that the BBC can and will deliver material that commercial broadcasters cannot or will not provide and display a loyalty to impartiality from which, for a host of separate agenda-driven reasons, the BBC deviated last year. That is Thompson's main task.

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