James Purnell to leave the BBC after being dropped from board by new director-general

Craig Simpson
·2-min read
James Purnell joined the BBC in 2013 
James Purnell joined the BBC in 2013

BBC radio and education boss James Purnell will leave the corporation after being removed from the executive board by new director-general Tim Davie.

The former Labour culture minister joined the BBC in 2013 and became known for a focus on attracting young listeners and viewers to the broadcaster.

Following the departure of Lord Hall of Birkenhead from the top job at the corporation, Mr Purnell found himself cut out of the new slimmed-down executive board under new director-general Time Davie.

Mr Purnell enjoyed a £315,000 salary at the BBC last year in his role as director of radio and education.

He had spearheaded proposals to give older managers under-30 mentors to educate them on appealing to youngsters.

New director-general Mr Davie recently urged the broadcaster to move away from an obsession with youth, and Mr Purnell was cut from the new-look board.

However, it is understood that Mr Purnell was not pushed out of the corporation, and that he had signalled a desire to leave the BBC last year.

The former cabinet member told colleagues he was “proud of what we’ve done together”, and will now join the University of the Arts London as president and vice-chancellor.

Mr Davie said: “James has been a superb member of the senior team at the BBC.  

“James has brought a passion for public service broadcasting and a commitment to reform.  

“For me personally, James has always been a source of insightful advice and a great colleague.”.

The director had at times been the subject of criticism for a focus on attracting young listeners and viewers to the BBC, at the expense of older audiences.

The success of streaming giants like Netflix sparked fears young people would be lured to newer media, and would ditch the BBC in favour of online platforms.   In 2019 Ofcom warned that the BBC risked losing a “generation” of younger listeners and viewers.

Mr Purnell will now work with young people at the UAL, leaving his current role at the BBC next month, and taking up his new position in the spring of 2021