The BBC seem to think that the revelations about cutbacks in the last few days are a job well done, given the leak to the Times and the reactions it engendered. The deliberate leak is certainly a small PR coup, given that it went to one of the papers most vocally opposed to the BBC and it shows Auntie Beeb willing to wield the axe.
But will the cutting of BBC6 Music and the Asian Network be seen, at least by papers such as the Daily Mail who are naturally opposed to the BBC and didn’t get the exclusive, as anything more than cosmetic, as more than the the wielding of a very small axe? Given that exclusives are thin on the ground nowadays, what could the long-term PR repercussions of not giving them the story too be? I suspect that it may involve papers that didn’t get the deal finding bigger axes of their own.
Not that they should spread themselves amongst the papers too thinly, either, as Andrew Lloyd Webber did with his recent appearance on innumerate covers plugging the Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies. Love dies pretty quickly if you offer up exclusives to everyone. A short-term PR buzz will not over-ride media ill will at being played for long.
It appears that the BBC is an organisation run by media opinion rather than careful management. They would surely be better off if they showed a little Reithian backbone. In a recession, it is easy for the media to quibble with Jeremy Paxman’s £1 million wage. The BBC should not cave in and start paying him less – in Paxman’s case, given his interrogative and fearless style, it is money well spent. It’s also worth remembering that the US networks would consider such a sum peanuts.
Small PR coups are not what the BBC should be about. They need to stick closer to their guns and believe in themselves more fiercely. They should learn from Paxman; they need to be the interrogators in their relationship with the media, presenting a strong agenda rather than sheepishly seeking the approval of opponents who would gladly tear the entire corporation to shreds.