On the Evening Standard, we used to call such items ‘house jobs’ – stories where we were essentially trying to tell readers about our own organisation, in as unbiased and objective a way as was possible to do.
The added problem for the Beeb is that it is publicly owned, run and funded, through a great British institution called the licence fee.
So hearing about job cuts – and TV Centre being sold off – is a bit like hearing that your local hospital will no longer be providing A&E, or your local police station a ‘front desk’, and that, by the way, some of the buildings are going to be sold to developers.
It immediately sends tremors down the spine of Middle England – a sense that the very fabric of our society, as forged by Richard Dimbleby, Aneurin Bevan and Dixon of Dock Green, is falling apart.
Of course, this is nonsense. What is actually happening is the ‘c’ word – change; which is anathema to those who cling instinctively to another ‘c’ word – conservatism.
This makes managing communications around such issues, in the BBC, NHS or police service, particularly challenging.
People feel you are questioning great British institutions when, in fact, as anyone in business will tell you, what those organisations are actually trying to do is respond to change, plan, adapt, evolve and grow – as any organisation must, if it is to succeed in a world that will otherwise simply change around it, and leave it behind.
There is of course an ulterior motive for some of us in PR wanting the BBC to change. Broadcast journalists often make better PR people than, say, print journalists, because they are more used to managing logistical issues and teams of people, not just a notebook and pen.
We look forward therefore to a much-needed fresh influx of talent into the PR recruitment market.