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Brown names new culture secretary

LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown has appointed James Purnell as culture secretary in his new cabinet.

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Purnell, who is a new member of the cabinet, takes over as culture secretary from Tessa Jowell at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Purnell is the MP for Stalybridge & Hyde.

Purnell was previously the head of corporate planning at the BBC from 1995 to 1997. He then worked for Tony Blair as special adviser on culture, media, sport and the knowledge economy, from 1997 to 2001.

In May 2005 he became parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and this year he became Minister of State for Pensions Reform at the Department of Work and Pensions. He lists his interests on his personal website as film, music, theatre and football.

Purnell's in-tray will be bulging with big tasks to manage in the coming years, among them will be overseeing preparations for the London Olympics; Channel 4's future funding; the tricky task of ensuring the UK switches from analogue to digital TV smoothly; and managing relations with the BBC.

Jowell was appointed culture secretary after the 2001 election, replacing the sacked Chris Smith.

Her main concern as Culture Secretary has been the future of television broadcasting. She blocked the BBC's original plans for the digital channel BBC Three on the grounds that it did not offer viewers anything that was not already provided by the corporation's commercial rivals.

One of her biggest legacies as Culture Secretary was the passing of the Communications Act in 2003 which established a new media regulator -- Ofcom.

In 2006, Jowell was heavily criticised for likely cost over-runs on the London Olympics project, which comes under the umbrella of her department.

More recently, Jowell was forced to defend the London Olympics logo, which has been the subject of widespread derision from design critics and the general public alike.

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