BBC spending on 'slick PR' condemned after website reveals 220 press contacts

The BBC has been accused of putting "slick PR" ahead of serving licence fee payers after it emerged that it lists more than 200 press officers on its website.

A new list of contacts on the BBC's media centre website names 220 people who work in press and publicity for the corporation as well as four external companies which manage PR.

This number is more than 50 per cent larger than the figure obtained by Press Gazette via a freedom of information request last January. Then, the BBC said the number of people it employed in communications "on permanent or fixed term contracts" was 147.

The BBC press office said the two numbers, 220 and 147, are not comparable. It said that there has been a reduction in the 147 "press officers/PRs/communications workers" to 141.

Asked why the other 79 PRs listed do not count in this total, a spokesman said: "The Media Centre website includes all BBC, agency and in-house publicists working on programmes across TV, radio and online.

"Not all projects are currently live, so the number of contacts on the site at any one time is not a reliable guide to current staff employment numbers."

1.30pm update: In a further statement the BBC appeared to accuse Press Gazette of being delusional:

The figure of 220 is a fantasy – many of these names no longer work at the BBC, are on maternity leave, secondment or were employed years ago to work on a specific project. The list also includes staff at BBC Worldwide who are not paid for by the licence fee and individuals employed by independent production companies rather than the BBC. The BBC Communications Division has 141 staff in post at present.  This figure includes support staff, public and corporate affairs staff (who don’t work directly on PR campaigns) and staff based across all English Regions.”

The 147 figure emerged in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal, when the BBC was known to have "enlisted the help" of external PR company Brunswick, although no services were paid for. The number was met with "astonishment" at the time by Conservative MP Robert Halfon.

Reacting to the number of PRs listed on the media centre website, which itself has at least three communications employees working on it, Rob Wilson MP predicted the new number would make licence fee payers "deeply angry".

The Conservative MP for Reading East told Press Gazette: "It is beggars belief that the BBC sees fit to spend licence fee payers' money on slick PR men rather than on the TV and radio programmes people know and love. 

"What people will be deeply angry about is that the number of PR staff [appears to have] gone up significantly in under two years, from the already shockingly high number of 147 that was revealed at the time of the Savile scandal. 

"This…suggests the BBC is putting even more focus on spin and self-promotion at the public's expense, rather than doing the vital hard work of changing its internal culture and becoming more accountable, the need for which has been demonstrated by the litany of scandals over the past few years."

Included in the 220 PR staff listed on the media centre website is BBC News head of communications James Hardy, who earns £101,000 a year. The corporation also lists Avalon PR, Midas PR, Premier PR and Taylor Herring PR as contacts for publicity.

Not included in the media centre list (but added into Press Gazette's, below) is the corporation’s director of communications John Shield, who earns £144,000 a year.

A BBC spokesman said: “At the time of writing there are 141 Communications staff in post.  This figure includes support staff, public and corporate affairs staff (who don’t work directly on PR campaigns) and staff based across all English Regions.

"With regard to your query about agencies we use to support certain high-profile programmes, this allows us to adjust our resources around major publicity campaigns without increasing our headcount.”

They added: “Every week the BBC communications division handles several thousand enquiries at a regional, national, and international level. The team promotes a wide range of programmes in newspapers, magazines, broadcast and online media. In addition there is a Corporate team that responds to a huge array of queries about the Corporation itself. There is also the Public Affairs team that liaises with politicians nationwide. The division is vital for keeping licence fee payers informed about the BBC’s content and how the organisation is being run.”

Press Gazette's original FoI request of December 2012 asked: "how many people [does] the BBC employ as press officers/ PRs/ communications workers?" The BBC responded: "As at 31st March 2012 there were 147 members of staff of permanent or fixed term contracts employed in BBC Communications division comprising Press & Media Relations, Corporate Affairs, Vision Communications, Audio & Music Communications, News Communications, and Internal Communications."

Here is the full list of contacts from the media centre website, with director of communications Shield and the four external PR companies added:

1 Aled Rowlands
2 Alexandra Gee
3 Alexandra Heybourne
4 Alexandra Thrift
5 Ali Cowe
6 Alissa Rooney
7 Amanda Consolé
8 Amanda Hearn
9 Amelia Fernandez-Grandon
10 Amy Castle-Young
11 Andrew Francis
12 Andrew Neilson
13 Anna Kharbanda
14 Annette Brooke
15 Annisa Muchtar
16 Anya Noakes
17 Avalon PR – company
18 Barbara Rymer
19 Basia Heath
20 Ben Murray
21 Ben Nolan
22 Ben Whybrow
23 Ben Wiseman
24 Beth Regan
25 Beverley Wilkins
26 Bryn George
27 Bryony Willis
28 Camilla Dervan
29 Caren Davies
30 Carina Smith
31 Caroline Cooper
32 Caroline Hunt
33 Cassandra Power
34 Catherine Moor
35 Cathie Davey
36 Catrin Roberts
37 Charlotte Inett
38 Charlotte Martin
39 Charlotte Morgan
40 Charlotte Scarborough
41 Chris Duggan
42 Chris Hicks
43 Chris McCluskey
44 Christine Black
45 Claire Briscoe
46 Claire McDonald
47 Clare Fisher
48 Clemmie Kirby
49 Conor Dwan
50 Dan Phelan
51 Danielle Smith
52 David Hopkins
53 David Turnbull
54 Davina Collinson 
55 Deborah Goodman
56 Debra Clavey
57 Devin Johnson
58 Diane Bramall
59 Dimple Poojara
60 Douglas Martin
61 Dualtagh Herr
62 Edward Brody
63 Effie Dufu
64 Eleanor Bancroft
65 Elian Fletcher
66 Ellen Hughes
67 Emma Burch
68 Emma Cooney
69 Emma D'Almeida
70 Emma Finlay
71 Emma Fox
72 Emma Hammond
73 Emma Russell
74 Fiona Fraser
75 Frances Cherry
76 Francesca Sostero
77 Gail Sullivan
78 Gavin Dawson
79 Georgie Hollett
80 Giovanna Clark
81 Hannah Wilkinson
82 Harriet Rhodes
83 Helen Deller
84 Helen Holt
85 Hilda McLean
86 Ian Johnson
87 Ian Wade
88 Ian Walker
89 Indy Vidyalankara
90 Jade Lancashire
91 James Hardy – BBC News head of communications
92 James Savours
93 Jamie Austin
94 Janie Ironside Wood
95 Jason Miller 
96 Jeanne Leong
97 Jeff Magill
98 Jenny Brown
99 Jenny Walford
100 Jessica Culshaw
101 Jessica Ord
102 Jim Gough
103 Jo Clayton
104 Jo Petherbridge
105 Jo Waters
106 Joanna Allen
107 Jo-Anna Parkinson
108 Joelle Allen
109 John Shield – director of communications
110 Julie Miller
111 Julie Pickford
112 Julie Whiteside
113 Karen Higgins
114 Karen Rosine
115 Karen Williams
116 Kat Blair
117 Kate Adam
118 Kate Jones
119 Kate Parkinson
120 Kate Stokes-Davies
121 Kate Toft
122 Katie Greenaway
123 Katie Marsh
124 Kelly-Ann Barlow
125 Kevin McCauley
126 Kiran Poonia
127 Lala Najafova
128 Lance Boyd
129 Laura Dumbrell
130 Laura Zetterberg
131 Leanne Williams
132 Lee Leschasin
133 Lewis Davies
134 Lindsay Smith
135 Lisa Vanoli
136 Lorna Gardner
137 Louise Loffel
138 Lucas North
139 Lucy Philippson
140 Madeleine Castell
141 Madeleine Chambers
142 Marged Parry
143 Maria Devenny
144 Maria Tumelty
145 Mary Collins
146 Mary Jones
147 Mary Picken
148 Mary Williams
149 Matt Munday
150 Maya Crowe
151 Meleri Thomas
152 Melfyn Clwyd Roberts
153 Michelle Osborn
154 Midas PR – company
155 Mimmi Andersson
156 Mohammed-Ali Abunajela
157 Natasha English
158 Natasha Lee
159 Nick Henegan
160 Nicola Ash
161 Nicole Hurren
162 Nigel Partridge
163 Patricia Blanco
164 Paul Rasmussen
165 Penny Crook
166 Peter Connors
167 Philip Fleming
168 Philippa Spurr
169 Phoebe Price
170 Premier PR – company
171 Rebecca Driver
172 Rebecca Schutze
173 Reetu Kabra
174 Rhona De La Mer
175 Rosanna Chianta
176 Roxanna Shapour
177 Roy Templeton
178 Ruth Neugebauer
179 Sam Hodges
180 Sara Jones
181 Sarah Aspinall
182 Sarah Darby
183 Sarah Davies
184 Sarah Ellis
185 Sarah Galbraith
186 Sarah Hall
187 Sarah Lee
188 Sarah Martin
189 Sarah Sherwin
190 Sarah Stevens
191 Sarah Vahtola
192 Sarah-Jane Peyton
193 Sean Duffy
194 Shammi Anand
195 Sharon Hanley
196 Sheryl Holland
197 Shivani Sundralingam
198 Sioned Gwyn
199 Sonya Crowe
200 Sophie Brendel
201 Sophie Holland
202 Sophie West
203 Stephanie Hardwick
204 Stephen Morgan
205 Stuart Macdonald
206 Sue Affleck
207 Susan MacKean
208 Susie Miller
209 Suzie Schilling
210 Tamsin Morgan
211 Tara Davies
212 Taylor Herring PR – company
213 Tim English
214 Tracey Gallagher
215 Tracey McEvoy
216 Una Carlin
217 Usman Mullan
218 Valerie Taylor
219 Vicky Owens
220 Victoria Asare-Archer
221 Victoria Taylor
222 Viviana Rubinstein
223 Wendy Kidd
224 Zara Lee
225 Zuzanna Daniel

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