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Who's afraid of Ashley Highfield?

Today it was announced that the BBC’s New Media operations are going to be restructured radically. At the moment most of the content creation parts of the organisation are kind of co-owned – for example, Simon Nelson who was the ‘controller’ of the part of the BBC that I used to work for (BBC Radio and Music) reported equally to Jenny Abramsky (in charge of the BBC’s radio and music operations) and to Ashley Highfield (in charge of the BBC’s New Media Operations). Ashley himself had pretty much direct control over a centralised part of the organisation known internally as New Media Central.

After working at the BBC for a few years, it seems to me that this structure was a sort of clumsy compromise that had a lot of problems but a lot of benefits. I wasn’t in the right positions to see the whole picture but there seemed to be organisational and communication problems with such a layout, and a certain splitting of resources. But on the other hand – and this is a big other hand – increasingly the divisions between ‘new media’ stuff and content creation were able to blur, creating new opportunities for each to support the other which couldn’t help but be a good thing.

The other thing which almost seemed to me to be a good thing – sort of by accident – was that it created an environment where parallel parts of the BBC could operate independently and in a rather more agile fashion. More specifically still, it meant that certain parts of the organisation with a kind of critical mass of smart and clued-up people could really thrive and generate their own culture and goals and get things done, even as others weren’t doing so well. It may be just because I worked there or Stockholm syndrome but I rather think that BBC Radio and Music was one of those places, and despite the fact that a bunch of my favourite people have since moved on, I think it probably still is.

Having said that not all parts of the organisation were similarly dynamic, despite the often amazing number of talented people working within them – specifically, in my opinion, Central New Media under the direct management of Ashley Highfield.

You’ll have heard a lot of announcements coming out from his part of the organisation over the last few years, but surprisingly few of them have amounted to much. They all made headlines at the time, but they’ve all rather disappeared. Do you know what happened to the grand plans of the Creative Archive or the iMP? They were both being talked about in press releases in 2003, but the status of the iMP now appears to be a closed content trial and the Creative Archive has amounted to nothing more than a truncated Creative Commons license used by several orders of magnitude less people and a few hunded short clips of BBC programmes. Highfield’s most recent speeches from May this year are still talking about these projects, with him showing mock-ups of potential prototypes for the iMP replacement the ‘iPlayer’ that could be the result of a collaboration with Microsoft. Are you impressed by this progress? I’m not.

And then there’s BBC Backstage – a noble attempt to get BBC APIs and feeds out in public. What state is that in a couple of years down the line? Look at it pretty closely – despite all the talk at conferences around the world – and it still amounts to little more than a clumsy mailing list and a few RSS feeds – themselves mainly coming from BBC News and BBC Sport. There’s nothing here that’s even vaguely persuasive compared to Yahoo!, Amazon or Google. Flickr – a company that I don’t think got into double figures of staff before acquisition – has more public APIs than the BBC, who have roughly five thousand times as many staff! This is what – two years after its inception? Even the BBC Programme Catalogue that came out of this part of the organisation a while back has gone into a review phase (do a search to see the message) without any committment or indication when it’s going to be fully opened up.

I’m sure – in fact I know – that there are regulatory frameworks that get in the way of the BBC getting this stuff out in public, but these long lacunae go apparently unnoticed and unremarked – there’s an initial announcement that makes the press and then no follow-up. If Ashley Highfield really is leading one of the most powerful and forward-thinking organisations in new media in the UK, then where are all these infrastructural products and strategy initiatives today? And if these products are caught up in process, then where are the products and platfoms from the years previous that should be finally maturing? It’s difficult to see anything of significance emerging from the part of the organisation directly under Highfield’s control. It’s all words!

And that’s just the past. This is a man who decides to embrace social software and the wisdom of crowds in 2006 – clearly waiting for Rupert Murdoch to buy MySpace and show the self-appointed R&D lab of the UK new media industry the way. His joy for this space is expressed in lines like, “The ‘Share’ philosophy is at the heart of 2.0 … your own thoughts, your own blogs and your own home videos. It allows you to create your own space and to build around you”, which is ironic given that earlier last year he stated in Ariel that he didn’t read any weblogs because he wasn’t interested in the opinions of self-opinionated blowhards. This is a man who apparently coined the term, Martini Media and thinks that expressing your future strategy through smug references to 1970s Leonard Rossiter-based adverts is a surefire way to move the ecology forward. This is a man described by the Guardian in its Media 100 for 2006 as follows:

Exactly how much the impetus for such initiatives stem from Highfield, and how much from the director general, was the source of some debate among the panel.

“Ashley Highfield is among the most important technology executives working in the UK today,” said one panellist. “Yes, but talk about being in the right place at the right time,” said another. “Mark Thompson should be credited with the vision, not him.”

This is a man – bluntly – whose only contact with Web 2.0 that I can find is a pretty humiliating set of pictures on Flickr of him on a private jet and ogling at half-naked dancing girls. (Note: This set of pictures has now been taken down).

So it is, I’m afraid, with a bit of a heavy heart that I can report that the restructuring of the BBC is going to result in a much larger role for Ashley Highfield within the organisation – managing (according to the Guardian, and I’d take this with a pinch of salt) up to 4,000 people throughout the organisation. All the new media functions that have currently been distributed will now it seems be directly under his auspices, and presumably more under his influence than those of the programme makers and pockets of brilliant people around the organisation. I don’t know enough about the nature of the restructuring to know whether it’s a good or a bad thing at a more general level, but it’s pretty bloody clear to me that it’s an ominous move.

Which is what makes me so surprised when people outside the organisation talk about how scared they are of the huge moves that the BBC can make on the internet, because the truth is that for the most part – with a bunch of limited exceptions – these changes just don’t seem to be really happening. The industry should be more furious about the lack of progress at the organisation than the speed of it, because in the meantime their actual competitors – the people that the BBC seems to think it’s a peer with but which it couldn’t catch-up with without moving all of its budget into New Media stuff and going properly international – get larger and faster and more vigorous and more exciting. I want the BBC to succeed. I want it to get stronger – I think it’s a valuable organisation to have in the world and I think it sits perfectly well alongside the mix of start-ups and corporates that’s emerging on the internet. And it’s for precisely this reason that I’m concerned about these moves.

Who’s afraid of Ashley Highfield? I am, and you should be too.

37 replies on “Who's afraid of Ashley Highfield?”

I don’t know too much about the BBC NM organisation, even haaving bits and pieces for them and wonder if you have an opinion on two questions…
1. Shouldn’t NM be integrated into the new BBC departments at a more organic, production level, in a more seamless way – as you have an editor or producer on the team you might have a digital person, rather than a big old department? It is 2006 – it’s not new any more.
2. is Highfield actually that smart? I hear stuff that comes out of the BBC in public via PR which I know gets filtered through people who *really* know what to say. Does he really understand what goes on? Is he just a good manager who says the right thing, or genuinely a vison guy?

All together now: The manager’s in his den, the manager’s in his den…
The manager wants an empire, the manager wants an empire…
Mind you, I don’t think paulpod’s suggestion of organic seamless integration is the right way to go, either. I think the recipe for success is to get some bright people who want to do stuff that you don’t quite understand, let them do stuff and (most important) call them in every few weeks and ask them what the hell they’ve been doing. Not so much creative friction as creative ramshackleness. Which, sadly, sounds like what they’ve just got rid of.
Please follow Mark Simpkins’ link (here it is again). I can’t top Tom’s comment, except to say that I found myself just looking at it and saying What? What is it? What does what to what? I haven’t flagged it as ‘may offend’, but I was mightily tempted.

You know, I think the BBC needs a whistleblowing gossip-blog. I’m a keen watcher of its forays into interweb stuff from outside the organisation, and I had no idea this kind of shit was going on… 🙁
Maybe the problem is that there are so many nay-sayers externally, who wish the Beeb would fail in its online efforts or wish to rewrite regulation to enforce that outcome, that everyone internally tries to present a positive face to the outside world — even when the internal politics make it very unlikely that good stuff will result.

btw, ‘’ tells me that is ‘A weblog by Tom Coates who works at BBC Radio and Music Interactive’. 😉

I think you’re being a bit harsh.
You mention a lot of relatively simple things which have come from the divisions. The New Media department does not do simple projects. it doesn’t have a raft of content to unleash RSS feeds on to the world unlike News. It doesn’t have a relatively simple user proposition like Radio to play with. I don’t argue that the Radio Player is a fantastic device, but it came from a Radio department with a Radio focus. A department that only (in effect) has to deal with itself.
However what I do know is that it’s highly unlikely today that Radio would have been able to make the Radio Player in the same way that they did in the past. The BBC has been “reigned” in in a huge way by the commercial sector – and they did it very quickly. Public Value Tests are stiffling innovation because you can’t just launch anything any more. Everything has to be trialed, then you have to test whether it upsets some startup in Lancaster – and all that’s especially true when you deal with the big picture stuff. Putting RSS feeds on the News site ain’t going to cause political issues. Radio Player, iPlayer – they do.
Tom – you left at a good time. However the BBC as a whole that you left however has changed, and I would 100% guarentee if you were still in the BBC, you’d be looking at this with a different perspective. This seriously isn’t the same place you left.
It’s not Highfield that’s not supporting innovation – it’s the whole set up, from the Government to the Govenors to the commercial sector who are constantly snipping from the sidelines.
I’m not exactly Ashley’s biggest fan, and I find the whole setup at the minute INCREDIBLY frustrating. However I won’t level all the blame on him at all.
(I’m sure you’ll understand me not using my real name)

Tom – do you have any comments on the differences between News/Sport Online and the rest of BBCi (I’m sure both those internal names are well out of date but you know what I mean).
I’ve always regarded news/sport online more highly or at least more prepared to ‘get things done’, as you described it – e.g.
– when they wanted breaking news alerts, rather than sticking with the (apparently clunky) majodomo server they outsourced to Experian. Normally I’d deplore outsourcing, but the fact is it worked and the alerts do perfectly the one thing required of them – to send many emails reliably in a short space of time. Often other various BBC newsletters to which I’m subscribed are delayed or lost.
– similarly, blogs. Looking in from the outside, the adoption of blogs across the BBC seems to have been led by news (initially Nick Robinson’s blog which was just an HTML page and comments form, then Newsnight did a trial one and hosted it on typepad, then more blogs followed, initially all hosted on Six Apart – before – presumably, some big internal battle that brought them back onto BBC servers.
During that time what were BBCi doing? Persisting with the (apparently broken) messageboards, which seem to attract universal hatred – possibly justified given the uniquely ridiculous ‘opening hours’, the split between ‘moderators’ and ‘hosts’ (and the fact the former are, I believe, outsourced), and to be honest, loads of bugs. The final problem has, it seems, been largely solved with the new release, but the first two still remain.
– ‘Most Popular Stories Now’ – another great idea by news which was done with no pre-announcement and again, ‘just works’.
What landmarks can I remember from Well, there’s the (although the most popular bits of that are just pulled from, oh, and during the world cup the homepage had a cookie so you could get rid of the football stories. Oh and BBC2 recently redesigned their site with a hideous amount of flash and videos which start without you requesting them (though at least you can watch programmes later).
And whose stupid idea was it that BBC webcams could only be allowed to refresh every 5 minutes?
This I’m sure sounds very bitter and disjointed (and is not meant to be detrimental to Radio and Music – who’ve come up with some very clever stuff) – but its the fact that all these quirks and delays are due to management and structure that’s so frustrating. Like you I love the BBC and want it to succeed, but I don’t seem how this reorganisation is likely to make much difference.

I think the thing that’s most annoying about that Flickr set is that he’s hardly tagged anything in his photostream. I know I’m being anal retentive but he’s a pretty shallow user of flickr. If you don’t use tags what is the point of using it at all? He’s not really getting his hand dirty with web 2.0 is he?

damning evidence and i’m surprised it’s not really been collated and presented before. we need more accountability on the part of highfield’s office to get behind all the consultantcy and marketing schmalz. backstage was allquite haphazard and fortuitous [excepting Tom’s vision] and not part of a greater strategy and from what i know all the other stuff e.g. creative archive, iMP have been too – the result of individuals in the business saying – “i have an idea” – rather than management going “we really need to look at this and develop some initial concept work etc.” And when all these things do get formalised and senior management get involved, what happens? it goes tits up. I’m not scared so much as angry and diappointed.

>> – when they wanted breaking news alerts, rather than sticking with the (apparently clunky) majodomo server they outsourced to Experian. Normally I’d deplore outsourcing, but the fact is it worked and the alerts do perfectly the one thing required of them – to send many emails reliably in a short space of time.
Although, of course, the Experian solution didn’t scale, so now BBC News emails are all done by a combination of open source and software written by the BBC’s central New Media department. But nobody would know that because infrastructure projects don’t win awards or make headlines.

surprise surprise, an ex employee of the BBC bitching about people at the BBC .. you may have left the beeb Paul, but you obviously are still carrying round that big chip with you..
I too worked at the BBC for 6 year both in R&M and new media during my time there. Things had to change to make innovation happen more often and with better results and I don’t think you are seeing the bigger picture. I agree with you, very talented and dedicated people work at the BBC and often it is luck rather than design when this talent is combined to make great things happen. I am glad to see the new structure as I believe centralisation the only way to cut through the acres of processes that are currently in place, suffocating creativity and innovation. And you never know it could reduce the constant in-fighting and bullying between departments (which I might add R&M are one of the worst offenders)
So what would you prefer Paul, Jenny Abramsky to take charge, as she waits patiently for her fat pension cheque to arrive? Ashley Highfield is an easy target for critism, and yet it is his department that have constantly delivered world class services(Isn’t Yahoo trying to get in on the action?) So doesn’t Ashley deserve a little bit of credit?!
Finding a few stag do photos on Flickr isn’t a scoop, Paul, it is a bit of idle tittle tattle. Maybe the guy hasn’t formated his photos yet because he is too busy getting his job done.

re: The Flickr stuff, Talk about must try harder. nothing’s tagged, no captions or notes, it’s all from a year ago when he got married, and it’s not even a pro account. 1/10.
Mind you, I know of loads of people who never tag, especially when you start out, because hey, you’ve only got 20 photos so you sort of keep them all in your head. You only learn to tagged properly when you can’t find something weeks later.
re: Corporate reshuffle… I really hope it works, but like everyone else I’ve a worry in my belly. Tom and the people he cited (Hammond et al) worked in one of the most advanced parts of the BBC and they are all very clever people. There are other areas, especially huge chunks of television, who still just do not get the web. It’s driving me bonkers! Mark has tried to address that with this change I think, I guess we’ll have to see.

It is a shame that the BBC hasn’t been agile enough to open up more quickly and the proliferation of feeds and APIs has in some cases been in spite of central management. We have had to be apologetic about releasing feeds due to contractual arrangements, butwe have tried.

The BBC has a significant problem – the official ‘creative futures’ vision that’s being promoted externally stands no chance of taking off internally, because of the total lack of respect that broadcast (TV are worst, but Radio have their moments of being pretty crap) have for both their audience and for techies. It’s not just a case of having the public value test getting in the way, it’s the vast number of idiots who believe that ‘geeks’ are some sort of sub-species. (Sure, not everyone at the Beeb is like that – lots aren’t. But too many are.)
Let’s face it, ‘creative futures’ is all about video on demand, not about doing cool and innovative things with new or participatory media. The blogs are shite, after all. An Editors blog? Oh please. That’s not a blog, it’s a pretence. Whilst people like Helen Bowden continue to look down their noses at bloggers, the BBC is going to be unable to embrace even the simplest of the cultural changes going on in media right now.
It’s no wonder that some of its most creative people have left or are leaving – why would anyone want to sit there and hit their head against the brick wall of old school attitudes and prejudices for a living? It’d be more productive to repeatedly drop a brick on your foot.

Spoon: “Public Value Tests are stiffling innovation”
You’ve hit the nail on the head there. It is becoming almost impossible for the BBC to innovate – we have to design something that works, launch it as an artificially limited trial for a few months, CLOSE IT DOWN!, tell everyone in the marketplace what we want to do with it for the next 5 years and then wait for a decision. That might be OK for something like the launch of BBC Three but is like swimming in treacle for new media projects. By the time BBC services launch the competition will have stolen all the good ideas and made them their own (witness Sky and C4). There’s little excuse for the BBC launching “me-too” applications (fantasy football was rightly canned) but anything that is launched is increasingly going to look me-too by the time it launches even if it was orginal.

Spot on. It is time people started looking a bit closer. What about Ashley’s other great ideas… like Chat around Content (stumbled along then closed), the i-Presenters (big search, even bigger party, then they got sacked before they did any work) and the good old New Media Studio (built for 1/2 – 1 million pounds, less than a year before NM moved out of Bush house!).
I’m all for taking risks and making mistakes. But cheap easy ones that you learn from, not flashy expensive ones that get repeated.
Also the oggling girls shots have now seems to have been hidden 🙂

Highfield-bashing aside (I have no experience of the guy, he’s given some friends jobs, is clearly a great politician, have no idea of his credentials as a manager, etc) this diatribe could be usefully applied to many a large corporation.
In a nutshell:
– people are constrained by large internal organisational politics and structures
– launching things takes a long time and is hampered by indecision
The people I have most respect for are the people who, despite it always being nut-tighteningly frustrating, stay around in organisations long enough to try and make change. We know who those people are at the BBC, and I think the broad sweep attack you muster here on, ultimately, Highfield sinks a couple of blows on them and their projects as it goes along.
And I’m not sure that’s fair. With hindsight after you’ve run screaming from an organisation with your sanity barely preserved it’s easy to point up exactly what’s wrong with it. What’s really hard is staying there and trying to change what’s wrong.
I know this personally – sometimes I’ve run screaming, sometimes I’ve stayed long enough to try and change things. Not always successfully, but always in the knowledge that I’ve left behind people better than me who stayed for the fight.
I think this attack reeks a little too much of perfect hindsight and schadenfeude. Are things really that much better at Yahoo!?

I think most of your remarks about the projects are spot on, but I wonder what more could have been done with BBC Backstage? Has it gathered less attention because there’s just less to give away than Flickr and Yahoo have got? What I don’t know is what they’ve got that they haven’t given away (apart from all the content that they’re keeping hold of).
How would you have developed BBC Backstage if you could have?

Pretty good stuff Tom. I don’t know a lot about New Media Central but I do get a small impression that there a lot of people who do far, far more talking than doing, which I guess stems in part from the lack of commercial impetus.
I do however think your parallels with Flickr are lazy and unfair. At Flickr the users generate the content, and Flickr provide (excellent) APIs to various parts of what is essentially one over-arching product. The BBC doesn’t match this model. Nor is it an organisation solely devoted to online, so whilst I understand your point, the 5000x more employees thing is a bit sensationalist.

byproxy says:
“The BBC has a significant problem – the official ‘creative futures’ vision that’s being promoted externally stands no chance of taking off internally, because of the total lack of respect that broadcast (TV are worst, but Radio have their moments of being pretty crap) have for both their audience and for techies.”
this isn’t true at all, those working in news or radio and music will tell you that while this used to be the case years ago, we’re now very respected – shame highfield’s land grab now means all the good ground work that’s been done will be a lot harder to build on (how can someone in FM&T be close to their former division collegues in news, when their pass won’t even let them into the news centre anymore) – nobody respects a team that is nothing more than a pile of software engineers (or any other single discipline with no comissioning power) – but anyway, forget the current diagram, but the next version in a year or wo’s time, future media and technology will be as notable by it’s absence as siemens (the old bbc technology) is now.

Yes, there’s a lot of talking not doing, applying processes and not doing, bullying people and not doing, planning great schemes and not doing etc etc.
I don’t understand why it is important to pay execs a competitive rate and yet the folks lower down doing the grunt work, coming up with ideas and so on are expected to accept a lower than market rate pay package on the basis that they work for ‘the BBC’.
It was a great organisation/idea but it’s too flabby, wasteful and without a clear idea of what it’s supposed to do in the 21st century.
I wish I hadn’t worked there and then I might have remained a supporter. It’s true what they say about how you shouldn’t see the wizard behind the curtain.

I used to deal with Ashley in his former position at Flextech. He was never a creative or particularly entrepreneurial boy. He’s a dry managerial type and in the commercial sector it is understandable his style had appeal for a company at the beginning of the ‘new media’ boom but frankly new media is just media now. Highfield is not the right man for the job he has. He’s a gadget man not a visionary or even an enthusiast. Would have been amused by the pictures.

forget the current diagram, but the next version in a year or two’s time, future media and technology will be as notable by its absence as siemens (the old bbc technology) is now.
Somebody’s got to ask…
For the same reason?

I used to work for Highfield at Flextech Interactive, and as he started it up from scratch, I owe him no small part of my career. I disagree with *downunder*, the guy was ten years ahead of his time, an early web visionary. His aim was nothing short of ‘transforming television’ at a time when most people had 9,600modems. I worked on an ambitious project to take a single source of metadata about tv programmes and feed it to a variety of emerging electronic programme guides (EPGs) – Sky, CableGuide, and our own web-based EPG – TimeMachine (later, inexplicably – Toaster): a very profitble business too. His vision was he who controls the metadata and the gateway, controls the content. And this in 1996, before GoogleVideo or the BBC’s imp or Catalog (where did that go?). He clearly has a job on his hands herding all the rattlesnakes at the BBC…

This is facinating, tomorrow I get to ask Ashley lots of interesting questions, as in the recent reshuffle he got to become my ultimate boss- Future Media and Tech will soon contain the Archives. Now for me, who worked in a dept somewhat emasculated under the previous stucture as regards our technical capabilities, this bright new world promises much. We never really had the capacity to do much at all with web and broadband access to our archives (though on a zero budget we did build several generations of catalogue search portals and we even spent a smidgen of cash on a federated internal search tool- no mean feat when you are the world’s largest multimedia library). Indeed we used to have to battle through several layers of management to even tak to our suppliers, and sometime were told ‘nope, you may not discuss anything with them, or even us!’. Seeing as we are working our tiny little brains out trying to figure out how on earth we can store and host for access almost 100 years of content (yes we have stuff older than the BBC) you can imagine this was frustrating.
Coms was bad- Tom knows this- will coms be better now?
I hope so, becuase you see as well as the rather blatanty land grab that’s just happened, we have just removed about a dozen lame excuses not to talk to each other- we are pooling NM and R&D people, we wil, fopr a few years at least, be in spitting distance of each other. Trust me, there are a fair few of us who will be using this new set up to make stuff, lots of stuff, happen.
New content- the stuff that R&M and TV used to go off and do might get radically launched in stand alone products a little less, but it’s my avowed intention to generate as many buzzy kooky risky madcap new approaches to accesing the archive as we can. I don’t mind at all that Ashleys is in charge- I hope to hell he’s all in favour and encourages and supports us, but frankly, it matters not one dot if he doesn’t.
He’s just put 4000 geeks and the worlds biggest media archive in a room together- stuff will happen.

Hello, my name is duoli who student in Unviersity of Westminster. Now I am doing my dissertation which is Internet business model for radio: How radio station integrated the Internet– a case of BBC.
Can you give me some opinion about this? also I cant contact BBC people to do interview, who can help me. urgent.
thanks very very much.

Hello come along a bit late to party but hopeful a few stragglers will be reading this.
But I just wanted to set the record straight on a few things, that u New Media types aren’t aware off.
“Even the BBC Programme Catalogue that came out of this part of the organisation a while back has gone into a review phase”
For last thousand years there has been a searchable programme catalogue for BBC internal use. The metadata in this is produced by a department that till recently has nothing to do with New Media (and came up with faceted classification while the rest of you were peek and poking your ZX81s)
The Web Programme Catalogue was a prototype, to test the waters. Protoype taken down due to *non-technical* issues regarding releasing information to the public
But Rest assure it will return.
The whole tone of your post reflecting the general ignorance and general disdain of the wider BBC of the u web whizz kids who seem to labour under the belief that releasing the BBC content is all about knocking up a fancy app and hey presto.
There is the whole matter of transferring millions of items and restoring the physical material.
Then there is small question of rights, solving the Gordian’s knot of who owns what and how much and whether they will give permission. Which is much helped by the decision to give Indies full rights over their programmes after 5 years, which halts the archive at material at 2005. and making sure that the information that is presented online is correct.
I am for one happy at last somebody has recognises the importance of the archive.
Rant over
thank u and good night

Sorry I’m *really* late to the party, and no doubt most of the twiglets have gone. But the post by ‘simon’ really brought the memories back, since I was Flextech Interactive’s first hire and worked on all the projects he mentioned. Do I know you, Simon?
As for Ashley, he started his career as a COBOL programmer, then blossomed as a Coopers & Lybrand management consultant. That might give some insight into his style. I actually have a reluctant admiration for his relentless personal ambition, but it’s possible this ambition is now going unchecked.

As someone else who has worked at BBC Online I can only add that the comment about News outsourcing mail alerts was very prescient. This would never have happened for
We worked ultimately under the control of the sysadmins at Kingswood Warren who treated anything more involved than perl cgi scripts (which were viewed with ultimate suspicion) as a infection never to go on their server.
Esconced in their beautiful ivory tower (which I was pleased to see they were eventually removed from) they were the epitome of the BOFH.
For a lot of the time I was there there was talk of replacing the notepad-style editing of HTML pages on the site with an editorial system. An expensive off-the-shelf system was rejected so they commissioned their own one, written in WebObjects and got some very highly paid consultants in to spec & implement it. Of course this was a huge flop. It didn’t scale and was just rubbish, at vast expense.

I think we risk missing a key concern with the expansion of the BBC. Where is the market failure justification for the BBC’s expansion? It is a publicly funded organisation, so needs to be held accountable for any spend. Remember, that a lot of licence fee payers will never access BBC New Media’s services, but go to jail if they dont pay the licence fee. This places an obligation on the Govt and the relevant competition authorities to keep a close check on what the BBC are doing. It is not about crowding our investment or any of the nonsense public value tests that the BBC have conned Ofcom into agreeing to. Go back to first princples. Is the BBC a cure to a particular market failure or a source?

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