BBC Four head Roly Keating is to be the new controller of BBC Two, replacing outgoing boss Jane Root.
Mr Keating, who takes up his new job next month, said he wanted BBC Two to "reflect everyday lives".
He called the position "a huge honour", adding he wanted the channel to embark on creating more ground-breaking and innovative television.
Predecessor Jane Root, who has run the channel since 1999, is leaving the BBC to join the US Discovery network.
Mr Keating, 42, said: "BBC Two is the channel of record for British culture and being asked to take leadership of it is a huge honour, and frankly a bit daunting.
"But I'm also incredibly excited: it's a channel I've grown up with, and like millions of other people it's given me some of my most memorable viewing experiences.
"Jane Root is leaving it in strong creative health, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of building on her formidable legacy."
Mr Keating told a London press conference he had made no clear plans for scrapping or replacing any shows on the current schedule.
"We have to refresh schedules by dropping some programmes and bringing in others," he said.
But he did not identify any particular "talent" that he wanted to attract to the channel.
Mr Kearing said he wanted to create programmes that followed BBC Two's ambitious series such as The Great War, screened in the 1960s, or the more recent History of Britain.
He also said he was not concerned with trying to bring about a huge increase the channel's audience share, which is currently around 10%.
"I want lots of people coming to the channel. The big target is making a generation of memorable programmes for the audience.
"That is what I would want to be measured by at the end of my time here."
Mr Keating was appointed controller of BBC Four in December 2001 and led the channel to win numerous awards, including a Bafta for documentary The National Trust.
He originally joined the BBC in 1983 as a general trainee and, throughout his career, has worked as a producer and director in music and arts.
Jane Root is leaving the BBC to join the Discovery Channel in the US
BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: "I can't think of anyone who could more brilliantly articulate why BBC Two has a special place at the heart of our national life than Roly Keating.
"He has an obsessive commitment to talent, on and off screen, and combines showmanship with energy and curiosity.
Matt Wells, media correspondent for The Guardian, said the BBC had chosen someone with "impressive cultural credentials".
Mr Wells said the appointment was a "tacit admission" that the channel needed to rediscover its highbrow roots.
"His appointment signals that the corporation has taken note of criticism that BBC Two has become too reliant on lifestyle and makeover shows in recent years," he wrote.
Clean-up campaign group Mediawatch urged Mr Keating to "respect" viewers by not broadcasting offensive content.
"BBC Two has had controversial programmes in the past and I would ask him to bear in mind the feelings of the viewers," said a Mediawatch spokesman.