The corporation hit the headlines over the weekend after director general George Entwistle was forced to resign over incorrect child abuse claims made on BBC2’s Newsnight programme last week. The crisis came weeks after the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal.
According to YouGov’s BrandIndex, its Buzz score – the net balance of positive or negative things people have heard about the brand – fell to -13.4 Monday (12 November) putting it bottom in a list of 44 TV and radio brands tracked by the pollster. On the 1 October, before news the broadcaster had pulled a Newsnight investigation into Savile, it had topped the same list with a score of 23.7.
Its Index ranking – an average of how customers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction and whether they would recommend it – fell to 44.6 from 53.5 on the 1 October.
The BBC News brand has also suffered. The corporation’s news service, which includes BBC2’s Newsnight, saw its Buzz score drop to 5.4 from 12.4 over the same period. Flagship channel BBC 1 has also suffered, dropping to 6.4 yesterday (12 November) from 18.9 on the 1 October.
Former PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble marketer Tim Davie has stepped in to the role of director general on a interim basis following Entwistle’s resignation over the Newsnight report, which falsely implicated the former Conservative party chairman Lord McAlpine as being a child abuser.
Davie, who was due to become the chief executive of BBC Worldwide later this year, has promised to “get a grip” at the BBC and establish better lines of command.
David Pemsel, chief commercial officer at Guardian News and Media and former group marketing director at ITV, say only a change in structure can fix the reputational damage
“The BBC is the most extraordinary company with what it does and its products. It is world defining in quality and the way it collects money and its size but it obviously has management problems.
These things can always happen. We are a news organisation and we know once trust goes it goes. Marketing isn’t the answer [to the BBC’s problem]. Tim Davie’s biggest challenge will be to [implement] a structure.”
Francis Ingham, chief executive of PR industry body PRCA, says the affair has inflicted “immense” damage the BBC needs to work hard to address.
“Shutting down Newsnight – the Murdoch option as one might term it – is possible. But in an organisation as labyrinthine as the BBC, with so many command structure complexities, that probably wouldn’t stem the blood anyway. Ultimately, the BBC has to ride it out, hope that the media story moves on, implement a significant programme of structural reform and then get on with producing good quality, factual material, that doesn’t blow up in its face.”
The BBC’s head of news Helen Boaden and deputy Stephen Mitchell have also “stepped aside” from their roles following the Newsnight scandal.
The BBC was named Marketing Week’s Brand of the Year earlier this year.