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BBC’s Huggers ‘Slated For Job’, But ‘No Announcement Due’

Here’s to embargoes, arrangements and accidents. As predicted, BBC future media and technology (FM&T) controller Erik Huggers is to be crowned director of the unit, according to Guardian.co.uk. Or is he… ?

The website published the story yesterday but it mysteriously disappeared immediately, perhaps the result of an embargoed story mistakenly published too soon. Spokespeople for the public broadcaster, who on May 30 told me the recruitment process was “well underway“, last night told me only: “We’ll make an announcement when there’s something to say.” So we held off. But today the story reappeared seemingly as planned, at 8am on the dot, forecasting Huggers’ appointment “as early as today”. Late this morning, UK time, the BBC told me no announcement is due.

Huggers’ promotion would come 14 months after he joined the corporation, replacing Ashley Highfield, who became Kangaroo CEO two weeks ago. He will control a 2008/09 budget of £114.4 million ($228 million) for BBC alone, plus FM&T’s CIO and CTO functions and R&D, as well as responsibility for other infrastructure and projects like iPlayer, totaling £400 million ($797 million).

But he would also inherit a division from which radical changes are expected, after last year’s £36 million ($72 million) overspend. The BBC Trust ordered a new management structure by December. It blamed last year’s reshuffle – in which BBC New Media’s activities were split across three units including FM&T – for weaknesses in managerial control, so Huggers will “work alongside a (new) BBC FM&T executive charged with strengthening the divisions’ editorial strategy and development”, the story goes.

Dutchman Huggers was recruited essentially as Highfield’s deputy in May 2007. A former senior director overseeing Microsoft

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