Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Billet doux

Dear Incoming Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport,

I'd like to draw to your attention an article by respected media watcher Ben Dowell in the Radio Times, which suggests that in the Autumn, BBC network radio will be put under the management of a former Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, James Purnell, who has already been given charge of the BBC's Education output without competition. 

There are a number of problems with this, many of which I'm sure I don't need to point out to a man/woman of your political wisdom and experience.  Prior to his current spell at the BBC, James has produced one documentary. This year, while most other support departments were making cuts, his Marketing, Communications and Audiences operation spent £7.2m more than the previous year (9%). Until April this year he was described as Director of Strategy and Digital. Last year BBC Online, including the Red Button, but excluding News, spent £28.7m (23%) more than the previous year, for no increase in reach. Until last year, James was project sponsor of myBBC, which the NAO noted ran for two years without a benefits plan
In the Annual Report, presumably written a month or so ago, James is described as Director Strategy and External Affairs; as of 6th July, he's called Director of Strategy and Education, with responsibility for CBBC, CBeebies and the new Ideas Service. If, in the Autumn, he's also at the top of a group of programme-makers which includes those producing Today, The Archers, Radio 5Live, The Chris Evans Show, and many more, without any selection process, this will have been a most extraordinary transformation which might be worth further discussion before you sign off the BBC's next Charter. Quite a lot is being asked for by the BBC in the scrutiny of skills of new non-executive directors, yet none is obvious in the rise of James Purnell. 

Yours, etc

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