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BLEDCOM set for ‘split’ as practitioners take on public trust and academics grapple with the state of the profession

May 23, 2012


A major shift at BLEDCOM, the 19th International Public Relations Research Symposium sees a move away from the mainly academic focus to two conference streams. Academics will tackle the theme ‘The State of the Profession’ while practitioners focus on ‘Public Trust’. Both groups will join together to honour the work of James and Larissa Grunig, two academics who have influenced thinking and practice profoundly during their long and notable careers.


Controversy is on the cards in some of the papers being presented, including one from Professor Anne Gregory, Chair-Elect of the Global Alliance.


Anne will be talking about the major changes in the way the UK Government is re-structuring and re-focusing its communication efforts. The Government Communication Network (GCN) is no longer led by a civil servant of the highest level, a Permanent Secretary; Government spending on above the line communication has been slashed to a quarter of what it was two years ago and the number of communicators has also been significantly reduced.


The new arrangements include the appointment of a leader of the profession at a lesser rank than Permanent Secretary; the abolition of the COI – regarded in Europe as the exemplary delivery arm of Government Communication; the grouping of Government Departments into hubs and an annual plan for Government Communication. This plan will be signed off by a Communication Delivery Board Chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and other Ministers, senior officials and Directors of Communications from across Government.


As well as explaining these changes and the genesis of them, Anne will be pointing out what she sees as the benefits of this approach, but also expressing fears about what she perceives as the dangers of politicisation of an independent civil service, responsible for informing the public, along with a move towards campaigning. Potentially at threat are the tenets of accountability and informed consent which undergird the principles of democratic rule. Fresh from an attachment to the Prime Ministers and UK Cabinet Office communications office, Anne will be providing first hand insights.



For more details about the Bled Symposium go to