BBC director-general Tony Hall has said he cannot guarantee BBC Radio will still be an independent entity at the end of the year.
Commenting today on speculation that it will be wound up as a standalone entity – with its boss Helen Boaden leaving in the autumn – Hall was unable to promise its survival.
Asked by RadioTimes.com at the BBC’s annual review presentation whether he could guarantee BBC Radio’s survival as a standalone “directorate”, he said: “I cannot make any guarantees about what structural changes I am going to do.
“There are all sorts of rumours flying about this place. You know this place well enough to know it is always a kind of rumour factory. What I will say is the importance of radio to me is absolutely firm. I have made a whole load of changes in the last week and I am really pleased with those changes.”
The “changes” he was referring to are last week’s executive level revamp, which Hall said would create “a simpler BBC with fewer layers and clear lines of accountability”.
He reduced the size of the executive team from 16 to 11 and installed Charlotte Moore as director of content, giving her responsibility for all the BBC’s TV channels and iPlayer. The director-general also made finance chief Anne Bulford his deputy and restored the role of nations and regions director.
However, Hall did not deliver a new genre-based commissioning structure, which it is understood had been under serious consideration.
The absence of the expected root-and-branch reform has also failed to quench informed speculation among many BBC insiders that one area still under consideration is BBC Radio, run by Boaden, which could be broken up. It has also been suggested that BBC strategy director James Purnell might be given radio to run by the autumn.
Rumours suggest that the changes announced only represent a stopgap, and that a further revamp could come down the line.
Last week the respected radio critic Gillian Reynolds, who has known the 60-year-old Boaden for a number of years, appeared to add weight to 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,” Reynolds told Radio 4’s The Media Show.
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.”