BBC PR chief Paul Mylrea is leaving the corporation following the announcement of James Purnell as director of strategy and digital.

The BBC director of public affairs emailed staff last night (14 February) to announce his departure. 

He said Purnell’s appointment was a “clear signal of the importance that Tony Hall places on engaging with our audiences and external stakeholders.”

“I have talked to James and look forward to working with him as he shapes his team. But I have for some time been clear that that the role of director of public affairs needs to change as part of the drive for more integrated external engagement. 

“I will, therefore, work with James and Tony Hall on helping them settle in before leaving the BBC later this year. We will let you know further details about arrangements as they are agreed”, he added.

Insiders suggested that Mylrea’s departure is part of the BBC’s ongoing plan to reduce the senior management head count. Communications will be a key part of Purnell’s role, meaning Mylrea’s current position would no longer be as crucial.

Mylrea led much of the communications strategy during George Entwistle’s 54 day tenure. It is thought he faced criticism from many quarters, including senior executives, about how the Jimmy Savile crisis, which led to Entwistle’s resignation, was handled.

However, others have suggested that Entwistle, who resigned after taking responsibility for Newsnight broadcasting a story which mistakenly implicating Lord McAlpine in child abuse, had isolated himself from his press advisors and surrounded himself with a legal team.

Mylrea, who was responsible for all communications at the BBC, was on a salary of £156,000  a year. Prior to joining the BBC in 2010, he was communications director for the Department of International Development.  His leaving date is yet to be confirmed.

Purnell is visiting the communications teams today (15 February) at 2pm.