Friday, June 13, 2008

BBC Rethinks Director Profile

Interesting story in today's Guardian Newspaper.

The BBC is understood to be reviewing its list of candidates to replace Ashley Highfield as director of future media and technology after the BBC Trust instructed the corporation's management to prioritise its editorial strategy for

Erik Huggers, the BBC controller of future media and technology, was widely expected to replace Highfield.

But following the BBC Trust's intervention it is thought other candidates with more editorial experience may be in the running. Huggers' core experience is in technology and not editorial.

Following last month's review of, the BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, is understood to have written to the corporation's director general Mark Thompson listing concerns raised by the report about a lack of editorial and strategic focus for the, which is part of the future media and technology division.

The letter is understood to have concentrated on the perceived shortfalls of and, in the words of one source, requested that the corporation "get its act together".

"The trust wants a new structure to deal with those issues and wants a senior editorial person to run it," said the source.

Another source said Highfield's replacement would need to have "serious editorial heft" to represent the interests of the future media and technology division against the interests of TV and news, which are seen as more powerful.

This source said the trust wants to ensure there is "not another debacle" like the £36m misallocation of budgets and overspend for in the BBC's last financial year, to the end of March.

Huggers is still regarded as a strong candidate who, since his recruitment from Microsoft a year ago, has been groomed to take over Highfield's role running FMT, which has a £400m annual budget.

But the renewed focus on editorial strategy could be good news for Simon Nelson, currently controller of multiplatform and portfolio for BBC Vision.

A BBC spokeswoman declined to comment. But she said the corporation had hoped to announce Highfield's replacement by the time he leaves at the end of June for his new role at Kangaroo, the joint web TV venture being launched by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4.

They need someone who understands digital storytelling, with editorial experience and a feel for technology. Someone who just has a deep knowledge of what is possible technically cannot explain to creatives HOW they will be creative to a deadline, the context of what they are doing and its possible impact on the public.
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