James Purnell first worked at the BBC in the 1990s, as Head of Corporate Planning. He had previously been a research fellow on IPPR's media project, and before that was a strategy consultant in media and telecommunications at Hydra Associates.
He left the BBC to be Special Adviser on the Knowledge Economy, including Internet and broadcasting policy, to Tony Blair after he became Prime Minister.
He was elected Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde, before becoming Secretary of State for Culture and then for Work and Pensions. He resigned from the government in June 2009, and stood down from Parliament at the 2010 Election.
Purnell then held roles as a Senior Producer at Rare Day, an independent production company and an adviser to the Boston Consulting Group.
Purnell returned to the BBC in 2013 as Director of Strategy and Digital, where he was responsible for developing the BBC’s strategy in the run up to Charter Review.
He took up the role of Director of Radio & Education in October 2016, with strategic, editorial and budgetary responsibility across the BBC’s arts, children’s, education, music and network radio output as well as leading the BBC’s partnership activity and the development of BBC Ideas.