Does BBC Radio still have a future as an independent entity?

Following yesterday’s BBC reorganisation, Ben Dowell asks if more changes are around the corner and whether the radio directorate still has a future as a standalone body

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Yesterday the BBC unveiled what director-general Tony Hall called “a simpler BBC with fewer layers and clear lines of accountability”.

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He reduced the size of the executive team from 16 to 11 heads and installed Charlotte Moore as director of content, giving her responsibility for all of the BBC’s TV channels and iPlayer. The director-general also made finance chief Anne Bulford his deputy and recreated the role of nations and regions director.

However, many of the expected changes were not delivered, including a new genre-based commissioning structure which it is understood had been under serious consideration. The plan was said to include creating new super divisions of BBC Entertain, Educate and Inform which would include the BBC’s radio stations within them.

The absence of the expected root-and-branch reform has failed to quench informed speculation among many BBC insiders that more changes could be on the way, with the delivery of a new content strategy in the autumn.

One area that is said to still be under consideration is BBC radio, run by Helen Boaden, and whether it will be broken up. It has also been suggested that BBC strategy director James Purnell may be given radio to run by the autumn.

Boaden was one of the rumoured causalities of the changes before yesterday’s announcement, but the radio directorate has for now been kept intact. In fact, her radio empire was actually strengthened with the addition of 5 Live which was taken out of the news department and returned to hers.

However, sources within the BBC suggest that yesterday’s developments only represent a stopgap and that further changes could come down the line.

On Radio 4’s Media Show yesterday, the respected radio critic Gillian Reynolds, who has known the 60-year-old Boaden for a number of years, appeared to fuel the claims.

“I happen to be a bookies’ granddaughter and I would put money on the fact that the radio directorate is gone by Christmas,” said Reynolds.

Asked to explain why she thought this, she said: “Because I think Helen Boaden is nearing retiring age. I think [radio] will go to James Purnell because he seems to be the King-in-waiting.”

The BBC however declined to comment on the claims. 

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A spokesman said: “We don’t comment on gossip.”