Roger Wright, who has a distinguished background in the classical music world, will succeed Nicholas Kenyon, who was appointed controller of BBC Proms and Millennium Programmes in July.
Mr Wright's main rival for the post, Roger Lewis, president of Decca Records, was yesterday confirmed as the new head of Classic FM, which recently recorded its highest listener figures.
There had been widespread speculation that Mr Lewis - whose past successes as a senior figure at EMI have included bringing the classics to a mainstream audience with stars such as Nigel Kennedy and Vanessa Mae - was in line for the Radio 3 job. But the corporation opted for the more traditional Mr Wright, 42, who has been head of BBC Classical Music since that post was created in March 1997.
"I am delighted to have been given the exciting and daunting challenge of running Radio 3," Mr Wright said yesterday. "I look forward to developing the quality work of my distinguished predecessors."
A spokeswoman for the station said: "It's very good news ... He will maintain the cultural high ground."
At the beginning of his career, after finishing a music degree, Mr Wright became director of the British Music Information Centre for nine years, running the world's largest collection of British music scores and recordings of the 20th century.
He went on to become senior producer of the BBC Symphony Orchestra for two years before working as artistic administrator of the Cleveland Orchestra in the United States from 1989 to 1992, one of the country's "big five" orchestras. From 1992 to 1997 he was executive producer then vice-president of Deutsche Grammophon, the high-profile classical record company.
Will Wyatt, director of BBC Broadcast, said of Mr Wright: "The network is in good and sensitive hands."Reuse content