BBC News

Helen Boaden becomes director of BBC Radio

image captionHelen Boaden has described radio as her "first love"

The BBC's head of news, Helen Boaden is to move to a new role as director of BBC Radio.

Former culture secretary James Purnell is also to return to the BBC, as director, Strategy and Digital.

The appointments are the first in a series of management changes by incoming director general Tony Hall, who takes up his post in April.

Ms Boaden, who was head of news when the Jimmy Savile scandal broke, has years of experience in radio.

Head of BBC Newsgathering Fran Unsworth, will act as director of news from 19 March and Lord Hall said he hoped there would be a permanent replacement in place by April.

Ms Boaden had to step aside for a period from November last year, along with her deputy Steve Mitchell, in the wake of the Savile investigations.

She returned to her job just before Christmas, after the Pollard Review criticised BBC management but found no evidence of a cover-up over the shelving of an investigation into Savile by the BBC's Newsnight programme.

At the same time Mr Mitchell's resignation was accepted by the BBC.

Lord Hall said: "I am building a senior team that will define the BBC and public service broadcasting for the next decade."

"It will be a team that is made up of outstanding talent from outside the BBC combined with the best people from within.

"There will be more changes over the coming months and there is a lot of hard work ahead but today's appointments are the first steps in delivering that vision," he added.


Mr Purnell, who stepped down as a Labour MP in 2010 and has recently worked in TV production, was the BBC's head of corporate planning in the 1990s.

He was culture secretary between 2007 and 2008 and then became work and pensions secretary but he quit that job in 2009 and called for Gordon Brown to resign as prime minister.

The BBC says his role as director of Strategy and Digital is a newly-created executive post and his salary would be £295,000, but added: "There will be no increase to the senior management pay bill as a result of these or other forthcoming changes."

Mr Purnell said: "I'm really excited to be coming back to the BBC, to work on its future with such a great team. Over the last couple of years, producing and developing programmes has rekindled my passion for the career I had before politics."

Ms Boaden said: "It is a huge pleasure to be returning to my first love of radio. I look forward to working with our outstanding controllers and some of the most creative on and off air talent in the BBC. The British public love BBC radio and I intend to cherish and champion it."

image captionA Labour MP between 2001 and 2010, Mr Purnell fell out with Gordon Brown in 2009

The corporation will now begin the process of recruiting a new director of BBC News.

Lord Hall was appointed director-general following the resignation of George Entwistle, after just 54 days in the job.

Mr Entwistle quit, saying that as editor-in chief he had to take "ultimate responsibility" for a Newsnight investigation that had led to the former Conservative Party treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse.

Tim Davie, who has been acting director-general, will take up an expanded role as CEO, BBC Worldwide and Director, Global on the same day.

Lord Hall has given the BBC's senior executives until the summer to restructure their teams and has asked for the changes to be made within existing budgets.

Ms Boaden was formerly the controller of Radio 4, and won consecutive Sony Radio Academy Station of the Year awards.

Lord Hall said: "Combined with the excellent job she has done in news over the last eight years, Helen has much to bring to the world of radio and music."

More on this story

  • Profile: Helen Boaden