Summary:

A profile and interview with Ashley Highfield, who till recently was the new media head at BBC, and after the big restructuring, is now head…

A profile and interview with Ashley Highfield, who till recently was the new media head at BBC, and after the big restructuring, is now heading the new Future Media & Technology division. His budget increase from GBP 250m to GBP 400m and his staff from 850 to 1,500. He plans to use this power base to “put Britain at the forefront of internet-based technology and to transform all our lives by giving us access to the entire video archive of the BBC, a treasure trove of 1.2 million hours of film, where and when we want, and for free”. That’s a pipe-dream in more ways than one, for now, and something BBC has been plugging away for almost two years now, with precious little headway beyond the launch of Creative Archive.
Anyway, back to the story: There is no reason, he believes, why the BBC – working with other British players – cannot exploit this video-led era to put Britain in a far more advanced position in the online world than it currently occupies. It does not, he says, have to stand back and give centre stage to US-based concerns such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Apple. “It’s wide open. These [US] companies are only a few years old. There’s no reason why we couldn’t actually be the companies that come out on top of this second wave of the digital revolution. It is not too late. We are fast approaching that tipping point but it’s not too late…we do have some of the brightest technologists and in the unique way that the BBC is funded we have a public service broadcaster with a remit to go and innovate and take risks on behalf of the creative industries and UK plc.” That’s a version some will dispute, for sure.

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