LONDON--The BBC is seeking PR support for its TV licensing arm, and is expected to appoint as many as six firms for a brief worth up to £2.7m.

The three-year contract will run from 2013 to 2016, and calls for a broad range of media relations, stakeholder communications and social media support.

According to tender documents, the overall value of the business ranges from £1.75m to £2.7m, divided into lots representing the six geographic regions under review.

“PR plays an important role in supporting the wider work of TV Licensing by communicating when a licence is needed and ways to pay,” a BBC spokesperson told the Holmes Report. “We run an extensive community relations campaign working with a range of organisations, including those working with people in financial difficulties.”

The licence fee is used primarily to fund the BBC, and regularly attracts criticism, although public support for the measure has risen in recent years.

Over the past decade, numerous firms have handled TV Licensing’s PR activities, although the BBC has not contracted directly with these agencies.

At present, the BBC works with six firms on a regional basis: Smarts in Scotland; Stakeholder Group in Northern Ireland; Brass across Northern England; Clarke Associates in the Midlands; Fishburn Hedges in London and the South East; and, Quadrant in Wales and the South West.

Agencies are invited to tender for the same geographic regions, and will be expected to provide media relations, digital communications, crisis counsel and stakeholder relations.

The search comes after earlier reports that the BBC would not seek PR agency support in 2012 and 2013. The BBC spokesperson, however, told the Holmes Report that the organisation’s in-house PR team required specific regional services for this brief.

“The BBC uses regional PR services where specialist experience and knowledge of the nations and regions is required,” said the spokesperson.

At present, the BBC's TV licence does not cover online catch-up services such as the iPlayer, an issue that is expected to intensify as more services, including the BBC-backed YouView, reach the market.