Understanding Charities Group to lobby BBC for more coverage of charities

The group, launched by CharityComms, will also identify spokespeople who can talk to the media about sector issues

BBC to be lobbied by the group
BBC to be lobbied by the group

The group set up to secure better treatment for charities in the media will lobby the BBC to provide more generic coverage of charities, it has announced.

The Understanding Charities Group, which was launched last year by CharityComms, has today laid out its plans for the next three years in a strategy paper published on the website of the consultancy nfpSynergy.

The document says that by the end of 2016 the group will produce a report highlighting how the BBC covers the work of charities and providing recommendations for change. "The BBC is one of the most influential broadcasters in the UK," says the paper. "If we can’t persuade/cajole/reason/campaign/mither it to change its editorial approach, the prospect of persuading other media outlets to change seems remote."

It also says that the group plans to identify more than 50 spokespeople who would be able to talk to the media about issues affecting the sector.

It says the group will begin this process – which it plans to continue indefinitely – by holding a brainstorming day in May or June, where individuals representing a range of charities will be identified.

"There is no point in pushing for better coverage of the way that charities work if we simply create a bottleneck by only having a limited number of people who are comfortable talking about charities and how they work," the paper says.

Other plans include: creating a "relationship management team", a team of charity professionals that builds relationships between the sector and the media; pushing for an increased number of charity correspondents in the media; and increasing the ways in which the public find out about the charity world through social and non-traditional media.

The group plans to interview 10 to 15 journalists in a bid to understand why the sector receives low levels of "generic coverage" – as opposed to coverage focusing on a particular cause area – by the end of July, draft a list of suggestions for television and radio programmes that could include charity coverage by the end of August and produce a report documenting the low levels of charity media coverage compared with other sectors by spring 2016.

Joe Saxton, the co-founder of nfpSynergy who led the creation of the strategy, said: "There’s nothing easy about getting any sector to feature more prominently in the media, and it will take five or 10 years to come about.

"The good news is that there’s no shortage of all the things the media is interested in in the charity sector. But clearly the media doesn’t see us as so exciting as we do, and we have to be able to accept the rough with the smooth if we get more coverage of the sector."

He said the sector was lacking an equivalent to Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the advertising company WPP, and Justin King, the former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, who he said could be counted on to speak to the media on behalf of the business world.

He said representatives were needed who worked for charities, rather than umbrella groups such as Acevo or the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. But he said it was likely they would not be paid for acting as spokespeople.

On the plans to ask the BBC for more coverage of charities, Saxton said that several years ago the arts sector had pressured the BBC to give it more extensive coverage, which led to the BBC conducting a review and subsequently increasing its arts coverage.

Saxton is calling for sector professionals to give feedback on the strategy by emailing him at joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net by 29 May.

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