Danny Rogers on PR: BBC bosses wield the axe on comms team

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The Independent Online

The BBC’s communications team is the latest part of the corporation to feel the scythe of cost-cutting.

Director of comms Ed Williams has abolished several senior roles, including digital comms chief Paul Almond, who is being made redundant. Donald Steel, the long-standing and well-liked chief spokesman, recently announced he was leaving. This followed the departure of corporate affairs head Tina Stowell, who left to pursue a career in politics last year. The BBC’s “comms board” is reduced to seven people.

Williams, a former Reuters staffer who has run the comms operation for the past three years, is seeking 25 per cent cost savings from his 160-strong team. He is consulting over further job losses and claims to see “opportunity for a more efficient and streamlined operation”. Insiders say spending cuts, for example on programme screenings and media events, are already “pretty savage”.

Williams, who advises director general Mark Thompson, looks secure for a couple of years. His deputy is the former Transport for London PR Paul Mylrea, who assumes many of Steel’s duties. Julian Payne, head of PR for BBC TV, becomes more prominent.

The cuts mean fewer programmes will be publicised, which could create tensions with producers. PR will focus on “symbolic”shows and “national events” such as the royal wedding. The question mark is over the BBC’s ability to deal with media crises, such as the Queengate and Sachsgate scandals.

Thompson and Williams have a two-year plan to manage the BBC through a series of big projects. Both are likely to leave after that, preferably with their own reputations enhanced.

Danny Rogers is editor of PR Week