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Ashley Highfield

Independent interview

13 Aug, 2006

The Independent interviews Highfield, in his new position as head of Future Media and Technology at the BBC. He says he plans to use the department’s £250m to £400m budget and and 1500 staff to put Britain at the forefront of internet-based technology by opening the BBC’s video archive of the BBC, some 1.2 million hours of film, for free.

I think we are about to go from the predominantly text-based, predominantly static world into the video-rich, dynamic, two-way engaging environment. That for me is when it starts to get really interesting. It’s more than putting a newspaper online it’s where you can really start to empower people and give them total control over their media consumption…What we [The British] have is an opportunity now in Web 2.0 to actually get ahead of the game, because we do have one of the most advanced creative industries, our television industry is world renowned…[The BBC] has one of the world’s largest archives, if not the largest archive. And yet, because we’ve got so few channels – routes to our audience – inevitably 99.9 per cent of that content stays on the shelves. We ought to liberate it and make it available, how, when and where our audience would like to consume it.

On the UK approach to education and technology:

The streaming of people in England into arts and science means that people who can explain technology are few and far between. It’s so rare in the creative industries to find creatives who are interested in technology, because a lot of them look down on it. It wouldn’t happen in America or Germany. It’s very rare as well to find technologists who have been taught how to sell their ideas. It’s one of the reasons why the entrepreneurial culture here hasn’t made many dotcom successes.