Lord Burns has the nickname "Lord Fixit"
Lord Burns, a former chief economic adviser and permanent secretary to the Treasury, has been appointed as the next chairman of Channel 4.
Lord Burns succeeds Luke Johnson, who retires on January 27 following six years in the post.
Lord Burns, who joins immediately, was the favourite to take the role.
"I am delighted to be joining Channel 4. This is a time of great change... and Channel 4 has a very special and continuing role to play," he said.
Lord Burns was among a number of names tipped to take the post, including former BBC director general Greg Dyke and Richard Eyre, a former chief executive of ITV.
He will join Channel 4 immediately as chairman-designate, working with Johnson to find a new chief executive to replace Andy Duncan, who is expected to step down at the end of the month.
Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe cited Lord Burns's "outstanding record of public service and a real depth of commercial expertise".
"He will provide strong leadership at a time of considerable change in the broadcasting world," she said.
"I would also like to pay tribute to Luke Johnson's tremendous contribution to Channel 4 in a period during which it has enjoyed considerable success," she added.
Lord Burns is chairman of Abbey National, Welsh Water and the Royal Academy of Music. He is a non-executive of the Pearson Group, which owns the Financial Times, and president of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
In media terms, he is arguably best known for leading a review of the BBC's role in the run-up to the renewal of the corporation's 10-year royal charter in late 2006.
His three-year appointment has been approved by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw.