Channel 4 on verge of drafting in Maitland

Channel 4 is poised to hire Maitland for help with its corporate comms after consulting a handful of agencies during recent weeks.

The channel is also likely to sign up a public affairs consultancy before the end of the month.

Channel 4 faced negative press again this week when it emerged that viewers who paid £1 to take part in a Richard & Judy telephone quiz had no chance of winning.

Head of press and publicity Matt Baker said that 2007 - Channel 4's 25th anniversary year - would be a ‘key year' for the broadcaster.

‘We are in the middle of an Ofcom review of our funding and have been looking since last September at whether agency support would help us,' he added.

Maitland managing partner Neil Bennett - formerly City editor of The Sunday Telegraph - has already been advising senior Channel 4 executives and fielding calls for the broadcaster on an informal basis. Bennett is a friend of Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson.

Last September, Channel 4 hired media consultancy The Harthill Partnership for a comms audit, using the services of senior partner Richard Peel - a former Audit Commission, Independent Television Commission and England and Wales Cricket Board comms chief.

Channel 4 accelerated its hunt for high-level comms support when it came under fire during the Celebrity Big Brother racism row (PRWeek, 23 January).

The results of the Ofcom review into C4's funding are to be released in March. The channel's opponents have already used the CBB row to call for an end to state support for the publicly owned corporation, and the channel is working hard to illustrate its contribution to the economy and media landscape.

The Celebrity Big Brother scandal erupted last month after contestants Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara were accused of racially bullying Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. Media relations around that issue, and the Richard & Judy affair, were handled in-house.

C4's Johnson appeared on Radio 4's Today programme during the CBB furore - without informing his press office - and would not comment on air.

Other Maitland clients include Trinity Mirror and Guardian Media Group.

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