The BBC has promoted Erik Huggers to director of future media and technology, the most senior role in leading the public service broadcaster into the next phase of its digital future. The announcement comes as the BBC Trust published a report that suggests the corporation contributes around twice the value of its annual licence free revenue to the creative economy of the United Kingdom.
The appointment of the former Microsoft executive to the newly created post of controller within the future media and technology group in May last year was identified by informitv as a succession strategy.
He replaces Ashley Highfield, who has left the BBC to become chief executive of Kangaroo, the proposed joint venture video project of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
Erik Huggers will be responsible for the output of the BBC online, on interactive television, mobile and other emerging platforms, as well as for the overall enterprise and broadcast technology strategy and delivery for the BBC. Part of his remit is to ensure that the BBC leads the industry in its transformation from linear broadcasting to on-demand distribution.
“Since I joined the Corporation, I have been struck by the energy and skill that BBC staff are devoting to make sure the Corporation meets the challenges of the on-demand world,” he said.
The formal announcement of his appointment comes the day after Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust, gave a speech at a European Union conference in Strasbourg in which he said “the BBC is more than simply a broadcaster”.
“It is expected to fulfil public purposes that go well beyond the provision of high quality television and radio programmes and online content,” he said. “The BBC is also tasked with delivering to audiences the benefits of emerging communications, technologies and services.”
“Convergence and market changes are bringing new areas of competition as both public and private providers seek to make the most of the opportunities created by the digital revolution.”
“We believe strongly that audience interests are best served by the BBC using its scale and public investment on behalf of the UK media sector as a whole, emphasising co-operation as well as competition,” he said.
The BBC Trust published a report it commissioned from Pricewaterhouse Coopers which suggests that the overall economic impact of the BBC is additive. “The creative industries in the UK would be worse off by at least £5 billion each year if the BBC did not exist,” he said.
In other words, the added value provided by the BBC is around twice that of the licence fee. The report suggests that a substantial reduction in or removal of licence free funding would server to reduce the available funding for the broadcasting sector as a whole.
The funding of the BBC has always been a matter for debate. Last week Greg Dyke, the previous director general of the BBC called for the television licence to be scrapped and replaced by a government grant.
The economic impact of the BBC on the UK creative and broadcasting sector is available from the BBC Trust section of the BBC web site.