'Declining business model' of the media an 'opportunity' for central Government's 3,650 comms staff says official report

A new report reveals that central Government employs 3,650 staff in PR and communications roles.

The figure is contained in a report called: The Government Communications Service – Modern Communications Operating Model.

It sets out how the newspaper industry’s “declining business model” represents an “opportunity” for the government.

It says: “The media industry’s struggle to cope with a declining business model offers the opportunity for government to produce more ‘direct-to-consumer’ creative content.

“The opportunity is not so much about government pushing native content, rather about GCS creating fully-fledged media production teams, sensitive to the nuances of each channel and audience.”

GCS staff work directly for the various government departments and around 45 per cent work for “arm’s length bodies” within departments such as: The Department of Health, Ministry of Justice, and department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Talking in general about how a government media operation should work, the document states: “Each department requires a media operation which will set the external agenda rather than simply follow it; to this end, media teams should concentrate on creating and seeding stories strategically rather than tactically to showcase policy strategy and operational delivery.

“While a highly-responsive reactive handling capability (which explains policy, but can also spike inaccuracy before publication) will always be important, media teams should regard themselves as campaigners who ensure long-term delivery of government messages.”

Talking in general about the aims of the GCS, the document states: “The service helps improve the lives of people and communities in the UK, supports the effective operation of our public services and delivers responsive and informative communications 24 hours a day. It will achieve this by continuing to build a more skilled and unified profession; one that is always seeking to innovate and adopt global best practice.”

Government communications include public health campaigns, promotional campaigns for British business and information campaigns such as “The Power to Switch”, launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change encouraging energy consumers to change suppliers.

The Government is budgeted to spend £289m on external communications this year.

The document details how a “large operational department” of Government should have around 33 communications staff including a head of campaigns, head of international communications, head of media/digital and a head of strategy (see picture).

This would include one person at pay grade SCS2 (£84k to £162k) and two individuals at pay grade SCS1 (£60k to £117k).

The Daily Mail on Saturday reported on the document as it highlighted the difference between the £289m figure and the estimated £6m a year spent by central government departments answering Freedom of Information requests – following up on work carried out by Press Gazette.

A consultation on changing the Freedom of Information Act, widely feared to lead to a weakening of the act for requestors, is set to conclude on Friday.

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