People management strategies for development and growth of PSBs in the fragmented digital media landscape

A new pilot study conducted by the University of Westminster in partnership with the Public Media Alliance (PMA) in the first quarter of 2019 has examined the processes by which Public Service Broadcasters manages the employee–employer relationship over the employment lifecycle. The research, which was carried out in part by CAMRI Doctorial Researcher, Peter Block, considers whether public service media (PSM) organisations have a coherent, strategic approach to Human Resources Management.

The importance of this pilot study is predicated on the argument that a diverse and inclusive workforce is key to success in all sectors of the creative industries. The scope of work was to conduct a review of human resource management (HRM) processes within PSBs drawn from a cross-section of PMA members. The study benchmarked a sample group against a comparator set using a qualitative self-evaluation tool based on a HRM maturity model. This is an assessment tool that helps the HR professional to identify the weaknesses of internal HRM Systems, by comparing the maturity map of their company with the standard HRM maturity map. The model applied in this study defines 22 HRM attributes to create a performance index of people management. These attributes are clustered under Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and Learning & Development (L&D) that cover strategy, action and evaluation, as shown in the presentation accompanying this summary.

Overall a picture emerged of HRM processes being transactional in nature within the pilot study PSBs. There is an absence of vision and strategic thinking. The lowest index score was 16% and highest 86%. These scores were cross-referenced with the publicly available documents produced by the broadcasters from which it is concluded that the ’16’ was brutally honest and the ’86’ an overstatement. The research revealed a number of anodyne statements supporting HRM but with limited over-arching ambition, commitment and statement of purpose. There were few publicly stated policies and limited publicly available evidence of HRM targets.

Three organisations were used as benchmark comparators; two broadcasters – the BBC and Channel 4 (UK) plus Ernst & Young (EY) a global leader in HRM processes with a wealth of public documents on best practice. It was clear from the external audit of the pilot PSBs that PMA organizations that follow the BBC or the Channel 4 HRM governance model as template go beyond compliance. Those that don’t follow the BBC model produce annual reports with very limited focus on employees. There is a focus by Asian PSM organisations to present their leaders not leadership. Triangulating the scores with the supporting documentation it was evident that there was some overstatement of HRM actions. This was not helped by the lack of transparency by most PSBs in the pilot study.


Existing research overwhelmingly concludes that well managed HRM is good for business. Some PMA companies in the pilot group appear to be under-performing in HRM versus their competitive set and comparators.

This has implications for risk management with non-compliance to legal frameworks; lost opportunities for talent recruitment and retention; and corporate values and reputation with the wider stakeholder community. If nothing else, good people management is the right thing to do.

Recommendations and next steps

The indications are that PSMs organisations lag the competition; current approaches represent an organisational risk. However, this study revealed that there are examples of good practice across the sector, but they do need to be shared.

The full report provides a set of recommendations under three stages to high performance. These stages suggest that PSBs take some immediate practical steps to improve HRM performance. Some PSBs need to define a strategy and associated processes for execution. The PMA should create a HRM community. Collectively that community should build on the exemplars to share good practice.

It is recommended that the PMA conducts a full study to gather examples of good practice to share within a community of practice. As noted elsewhere by the PMA, collaboration is key to the survival of PSM.

Explore the research results

The PMA would like to thank Peter Block and the University of Westminster for undertaking this research.

Text sourced from PMA partner CAMRI, at the University of Westminster.