Entertainment & Arts

James Purnell becomes BBC radio chief

James Purnell and Helen Boaden
Image caption Purnell's new role was announced as Boaden's departure was confirmed

James Purnell, the BBC's director of strategy, has been promoted to a new role putting him in charge of the corporation's radio stations.

Purnell, who was UK culture secretary in the Labour government in 2007-08 before joining the BBC, has been made director of radio and education.

His move comes after Helen Boaden's retirement as director of radio.

The BBC said a new director of radio would be recruited to "give creative leadership and focus day in, day out".

Tony Hall, the BBC's director general, said he wanted "to bring together network radio, arts, music, learning and children's under James's leadership".

Purnell, who joined the BBC in 2010, said he was "delighted to have been asked to lead the new division".

Lord Patten of Barnes, former chairman of the BBC Trust, said Purnell had "huge experience in public affairs and now in broadcasting".

"I am sure he will do an excellent job running some of the BBC's flagship services," the former Conservative minister continued.

'Concerns'

Rumours of Purnell's new role began circulating earlier this year, prompting former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale to call for a rethink.

The Conservative MP said he had "concerns about somebody who has played a very prominent role in a political party then going on to have an editorial job in the BBC".

The BBC said Purnell was interviewed for the new post earlier this week and would remain on his existing £295,000 salary.

Boaden, 60, joined the BBC in 1983, going on to become head of BBC News in 2004 and director of Radio in 2013.

She will leave the corporation in March to take up a fellowship at Harvard and said she had been "very fortunate to have done some wonderfully challenging and fascinating jobs throughout my long career".

'Slow journalism'

She is scheduled to deliver a speech at a media festival in Lampedusa, Italy later, during which she is expected to express concerns over the state of the industry.

"I worry about the direction in which we're going," a transcript of her speech reads. "It seems to me that the media can sometimes rush very fast in order to stand still.

"In our search for answers to a problem which appears if not intractable then complex, is the speed of the media's technology... obscuring rather than illuminating the issues?"

She will go on to say she is "unapologetically speaking up for the virtues of slow - slow journalism which is engaging and dynamic... but embodies impartiality, accuracy, expertise and evidence".

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