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Sunday, 2 October 2016

BBC Radio: Boaden Out, Purnell In


The BBC Director of Radio, Helen Boaden, has quit the Corporation after 34 years, citing the "changing direction of the media" for her decision.

She will be replaced by former New Labour lackey James Purnell, who currently holds the position of BBC Director of Strategy.

Purnell, who will retain his current £295,000 salary, has been described as a key lieutenant of Director General Tony Hall. Indeed, many at the Corporation consider Purnell a likely successor to Hall when his term as Director General comes to an end.

Purnell was a key figure in recent Charter Renewal negotiations between the BBC and Government and his new appointment is widely regarded as a reward for his loyalty.


Purnell's new remit as Director of Radio & Education will be slightly broader than Boaden's and his salary will be almost £50,000 less than that of his predecessor. However, any savings will be offset by the fact that Purnell will be appointing an assistant to oversee the running of BBC Radio on a daily basis.

Boaden wrote a speech published in the Independent explaining her decision. She expressed concerns at the pace of change. In an era of rolling 24 hours news coverage and more than a billion websites, is the quality of journalism being compromised by the vast quantity of output? Boaden certainly appears to think so.

Speaking in a BBC statement, the outgoing radio boss said: "I love the BBC and it has been the privilege of my life to serve our audiences for 34 years. But now is the right time to leave. With a new Charter to implement, Tony Hall needs a top team committed to the long haul. By contrast, I am keen to embrace a different life and put my energy, skills and experience into other things I care about. I am delighted to have been invited to take up a Harvard Fellowship in the Spring.

"I am very fortunate to have done some wonderfully challenging and fascinating jobs throughout my long career. The last few years running BBC Radio, with all its creativity, innovation and sheer fun, have been especially productive and happy. I am very proud that my final job at the BBC has been Director of the Radio division.

"I may be leaving but I shall always root for the BBC and its amazing teams who provide the very best education, information and entertainment, as well as useful and inventive technology. The BBC is extraordinary. We are blessed to have it as a unique part of our national life and we should never take it for granted."

Of Boaden's departure, Tony Hall said: "Helen speaks for public service broadcasting so eloquently and persuasively. We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. She’s been a great champion for our audiences. Whether at the microphone, backstage or in the boardroom, she has an unerring instinct for what is right for them.

"The BBC had been Helen's life's work and we shall miss her."

Boaden was at the helm of BBC News during two of the Corporation's biggest crises - the unmasking of Jimmy Savile as one of the resident kiddy-fiddlers and the incorrect naming of Lord McAlpine as another sex fiend.

She will remain in charge of BBC Radio until 31st October 2016, with Purnell assuming his new appointment the following day.

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