Purnell rejoins BBC as strategist

Director-general moves Boaden to radio post

LONDON — The BBC has announced the first set of senior appointments since Royal Opera House topper Tony Hall was given the job of director-general at the pubcaster in November.

In an unexpected move, James Purnell — a politician who was once the U.K.’s media minister — is to become one of Hall’s key advisors. Purnell will be director of strategy and digital.

Purnell is a cerebral strategist and politically well connected. He worked at the BBC as a policy adviser to then director-general John Birt in the 1990s.

By having someone like Purnell as one of his key lieutenants Hall is doing everything he can to avoid any repeat of the crisis over the late BBC star Jimmy Savile and the “Newsnight” public affairs show that led to the dramatic departure of director-general George Entwistle in November after 54 days in the job.

In an email to staff Hall said he was “building a senior team that will define the BBC and public service broadcasting for the next decade.”

Hall revealed that acting director-general Tim Davie will have an expanded remit when he becomes CEO at BBC Worldwide. The job now includes a “more strategic global perspective.”

Davie will start at Worldwide when Hall arrives in April.

His extra duties include developing the BBC’s international brand and editorial strategy.

Hall has also tapped existing director of news Helen Boaden to become director of BBC Radio — a sideways move.

There was speculation that Boaden would have to ankle over the crisis that led to Entwistle’s demise but it was her deputy, Stephen Mitchell, who quit the pubcaster.

Hall added: “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.”

Speculation is rife over who will succeed Boaden as news director.

Another key vacancy is director of television, the re-titled BBC Vision job being done on an acting basis by Roger Mosey, the man who was in charge of Olympics coverage.

Meanwhile, BBC journalists are to stage a one-day strike Feb. 18 in a row over job cuts starting with a “work to rule” Feb. 15.

And in further fall-out from the Savile affair, more than 30 victims of alleged sexual abuse by the presenter have lodged civil claims for compensation against the BBC and Savile’s estate.