New culture secretary Karen Bradley has little experience but plenty of challenges

With Prime Minister Theresa May appointing Karen Bradley MP as the Government’s new culture secretary, the new arrival will have plenty of challenges including how to manage the delicate issue of the BBC, whether to privatise Channel 4 and new regulations on advertising foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Marketing has a new minister with Prime Minister Theresa May today (14 July) appointing Karen Bradley as the secretary of state for culture, media and sport. She replaces the hugely experienced but at times controversial John Whittingdale, who was in the role for little over a year but had previously spent 10 years chairing the Commons culture, media and sport select committee.

He expressed his disappointment at leaving the role. Whittingdale will be best remembered for overseeing a government review over the future of the BBC, which is yet to be completed. Many critics accused Whittingdale of “declaring war” on the BBC and several of the the broadcaster’s talent, including Gary Lineker, were quick to express their happiness about his departure via Twitter.


However, Bradley’s links to culture, media and sport are not immediately apparent. Before becoming an MP, she held tax manager roles at both Deloitte & Touche and KPMG. She is also a trained chartered accountant.

Plus her previous government role focused on preventing abuse, exploitation and crime, which could mean areas such as clamping down on ad fraud and cyber crime quickly become a focus in her new job.

But whether Bradley is as committed to reshaping the BBC is yet to be seen. Ian Barber, communications director at the Ad Association, says one thing is for sure – she is a “long way removed from advertising”. As is Greg Clark, who has taken over as minister for business, energy and industrial strategy.

Barber told Marketing Week: “Both Greg Clark and Karen Bradley’s most recent posts are a long way removed from advertising.

“We will need to move quickly to give them a firm handle on advertising’s contribution – to the economy, business, society and people – and to build understanding of the role and effectiveness of self-regulation.”

Whittingdale’s plans to privatise Channel 4 must also be quickly addressed by Bradley if she’s to win over marketers, according to IPA president Tom Knox.

“Coming from the Home Office, Karen Bradley is a bit of an unknown quantity to us. We are therefore keen to see what her priorities will be for the creative industries and how she plans to continue to support and champion our value as we now contribute an incredible £84.1bn a year to the UK,” Knox added.

“Crucially, we hope she will completely shelve John Whittingdale’s controversial plans regarding the privatisation of Channel 4 – something which the advertising industry and the broadcasting community are united in being vehemently against.”

ISBA’s director of public affairs Ian Twinn, meanwhile, welcomed the new appointment, which is part of May’s ongoing cabinet reshuffle.

“Advertising and the wider creative and media industries are really significant employers, tax payers and earners for the UK economy,” he said.

“Our positive attitude to business in the UK is founded on a climate that encourages innovation and the ability to advertise is key to the UK’s success in a post-EU world. ISBA looks forward to working closely with our new cabinet ministers Greg Clark and Karen Bradley.”

Bradley also faces a number of issues beyond the BBC and Channel 4. Discussions are currently taking place on new regulations around advertising foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children and the role of digital. New EU data regulations also fall under her remit.