Former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell set to be crowned head of BBC Radio

Current head Helen Boaden is expected to announce her retirement from the BBC after 33 years of service

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Former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell is expected to be crowned the boss of BBC Radio today, following speculation first exclusively revealed by RadioTimes.com in the summer.

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BBC sources have said the Corporation will announce the new role for its current director of strategy in a move which has been seen as a reward for his lead in managing the BBC charter renewal process. Present incumbent Helen Boaden, who turned 60 in March, is expected to announce her retirement from the BBC today as well, say sources.

The new role will see Purnell take charge of the radio, education, arts, music, learning and children’s departments, making him one of the leading contenders to replace Lord Hall as director-general despite his lack of hands-on programming experience.

This, plus Purnell’s political links, is likely to make the move controversial. However the BBC is expected to appoint an experienced radio executive under Purnell with a hands-on management role in the radio division in an attempt to allay any fears about political impartiality.

RadioTimes.com exclusively revealed the plans to elevate Purnell to the radio brief on 7th July. The moves follow a period of extended – and, say sources, often heated – negotiations between Boaden and Hall about the future of radio.

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Boaden, who joined the BBC in 1983, told the Radio Festival on Monday that she was set to make a statement about her future in the coming days.