BBC overhauls comms to counter growing scrutiny

The BBC has drawn up a new 'long-term communications strategy' in an attempt to deal with unprecedented levels of criticism.

BBC: creates new head of strategic comms role
BBC: creates new head of strategic comms role

The corporation, which end­ured the Sachsgate affair late last year and faced criticism over the recent Gaza app­eal, has created a new head of strategic comms role and taken on the head of PR editorial and media at Thomson Reuters to fill the post.

Sophie Brendel has been told to ensure more consistency across departments and to ‘put the BBC on the front foot’ when dealing with the outside world. She joins on 11 March.

Comms director Ed Williams is overseeing the drive for more consistent message delivery across the BBC’s comms departments.

Williams denied the move was a response to recent negative coverage of the organisation but said: ‘The BBC is
under enormous scrutiny all the time, and that scrutiny is growing exponentially. But this is not about crisis management. These big issues will always come up. This is about a long-term strategy to drive consistent messages across the BBC and put together the jigsaw.’

Brendel, a former colleague of Williams at Thomson Reuters, will join the BBC’s central comms team, which comp­rises head of corporate affairs Tina Stowell, head of press Donald Steel and head of internal comms Andrea Gwillian.

‘The long-term comms strategy is to strengthen the team at the centre, have better discipline about our mess­ages, co-ordinate our announcements and put the BBC on the front foot,’ said Williams.

A senior entertainment PRO said: ‘The BBC’s different dep­artments have struggled to unify their overall objectives and have suffered from being too slow to respond to the media in the past.

‘A more co-ordinated re­­s­ponse means they will spend less time having to defend themselves to the Daily Mail.’

BBC in the spotlight

3 February BBC sacks Carol Thatcher over her ‘golliwog’ comment. Media commentators ask whether it was the right decision.

24 January BBC refuses to screen a fundraising appeal for Gaza. More than 170 MPs sign a motion condemning the decision.

18 October 08 Jonathan Ross is suspended and Russell Brand quits after media outrage over comments on a radio show.

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