Let's have more of the same please, Mr Burnham

Having just put the finishing touches to our special feature on media minister James Purnell and the future of government policy on broadcasting and advertising, you can imagine how thrilled we were at Media Week Towers last Thursday afternoon, when we heard the news that he was moving from the department and being parachuted in to fill the gap at work and pensions left by his disgraced colleague Peter Hain.

Steve Barrett, Media Week editor
Steve Barrett, Media Week editor

Being the versatile folk that we are, the article changed rapidly from a "Purnell plots the future of government media policy" piece to "Purnell leaves an unclear legacy" (page 26). Because there is no doubt that he will be missed by our sector, despite only being in post at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport since last July. He was that rarity in government circles, in being someone who "got" media and advertising, and he was in no small part responsible for warding off more draconian ad bans in the Government's "Make Obesity History" strategy announcement last Wednesday.

The Purnell piece is still completely valid (honest guv), containing as it does the DCMS's vision of the policy future and outlining the direction of travel that one can only assume will be followed by Purnell's hastily appointed replacement and former flatmate, Andy Burnham.

Purnell had taken on board lobbying from the industry, highlighting the immense contribution advertising makes to the UK economy - 1.48% of gross domestic product - and seemed to have some interesting ideas regarding TV and radio regulation of TV and a keen awareness of the convergent landscape epitomised by new media giants such as Google.

Burnham has worked in the department before, as a special adviser to former culture secretary Chris Smith. He hails from the same generation as Purnell and Ofcom chief executive and former Tony Blair adviser Ed Richards. And he comes from the Treasury, so he has good contacts with the real powerbrokers that control the Government's purse strings at Whitehall.

One can only hope that he will continue the progressive work set in motion by his predecessor, who we wish well in his new role around the corner at Caxton House.

- After a false start late last year, my blog is up and running. Check it out at: www.mediaweek.co.uk/stevebarrettblog

Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week, steve.barrett@haymarket.com

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