Ex-culture secretary is demoted at BBC, unsettling Radio 3

Ex-culture secretary is demoted at BBC, unsettling Radio 3


norman lebrecht

September 05, 2020

In his first cull of top management, the new BBC DG Tim Davie has cut the management board from 17 to 11.

Among those toppled is James Purnell, 50, Director of Radio & Education.

A former Secretary of State for Culture under Gordon Brown, Purnell was among exDG Tony Hall’s earliest recruits and closest advisers.

Since it would be irrational to exclude radio from the BBC’s top table, one has to assume that the demotion is personal. If so it bodes it for Purnell’s pup Alan Davey at BBC Radio 3 and for his embattled Proms director David Pickard. Several BBC head will now sleep less easy.


  • Removal Van 21 says:

    Remove tradition-betraying and marxist and anti-british elements.

  • Leo Doherty says:

    The BBC Board is still far too large, 5 plus the DG is all you need to run an institution like that, people, finance, tv, radio and on-line.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Bloated bureaucracy is often a sign of top-heavy organisations without any direct lines of control. I did wonder at some of the fanciful appointments of recent years, such as Kamal Ahmed (moving from Economics Editor to Editorial Director) and his strange new remit. It’s the individual producers who should be paying attention to editorial matters: if they get that right, there’s no need for a supremo higher up. And why have separate Economics and Business Editors anyway, as is still the case? The two areas are very closely linked.

    • Anon says:

      6 people to run a complex £5bn operation? Crumbs. That’s a heck of a lot of key person risk. ITV, a rather smaller and far simpler operation – no radio, no concert promotion, no overseas remit, far less online, simpler revenue model, no political interference, no in-house newsroom – has a board of 12 and an exec team of 11.

      As a taxpayer and willing licence fee payer I rather hope they don’t take your advice.

    • Mathias Broucek says:

      And how much real-world experience do you have of (large) organisation design?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hopefully the BBC shall become less political, and impartial as it’s supposed to be! Does, or did Parnell know anything about the profession?

  • RobK says:

    Fingers crossed. The joint resignations of Davey and Pritchard surely can’t be far off.

    • Herbie Goldberg says:

      From your mouth to God’s ear, RobK. But surely the big question is who will take their place and what changes will they make? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?

  • John Rook says:

    Funny, he’s got one of those left-liberal faces, a bit like ‘Professor’ Neil Ferguson.

  • Tom says:

    I am not surprised by this. I think enough is enough for many. The BBC badly requires restructuring. Alan Davey and David Pickard ought to be removed. They have greatly contributed to a very public embarrassment for the BBC. The quality of Radio 3’s output has diminished under Davey too. The public should be given a choice as to whether they fund this outdated and biased corporation.

  • Derek the Domino says:

    James Purnell is a great big steaming turd of metropolitan, over-promoted incompetence, wrapped in the silk dressing-gown of “former-minister”.

    Everyone is large organisations keeps getting promoted, to the level of their own ultimate incompetence. This is well established human performance doctrine.

    “The Peter Principal.”

  • Herbie G says:

    Shame – such a friendly and warm-hearted looking man too. As for the pup Alan Davey, his work is not quite complete. Credit where it’s due. Years ago, I decided that R3’s dumbing down will be complete when they play The Laughing Policeman and I’m a Pink Toothbrush – but Davey deftly leapfrogged over that and managed to get Dolly Parton and The Kinks on to R3 – a great victory for cultural ecumenism (though I wonder when they last played a string quartet on R1) but there are still some unwanted oases of intellectualism to be urinated into – such as Composer of the Week and Through the Night, where they play works lasting more than ten minutes – far too much for R3 listeners, who have such short attention spans. Then there are the Afternoon Concert and the evening concerts too – works with opus numbers and keys – the acme of arcane cultural privilege. Only when Davey has removed them and replaced them with celebs chatting about their favourite classical albums will Davey be able to claim total victory and be put out to grass.