Leading Las Vegas? BBC Nails Internet Colours to Mast

22 March 2006

Senior executives from the BBC, the world's largest broadcaster, joined the the high rollers table in Las Vegas on Monday. Not among The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino's array of roulette wheels, but at the Microsoft-hosted Mix06 event for the cyber community.

Sharing a platform with no less a deity than Bill Gates was BBC director of new media and technology Ashley Highfield, who assured the assembled acolytes that the BBC is up there with the Big-Leaguers when it comes to determining the future of the internet.

Pledging to work alongside techno titans such as Microsoft, Apple and Sony, Highfield said: "The pace is hotting up ... We are already working on a radically different search engine and thinking about how we completely reinvent bbc.co.uk. It's time to completely redesign it for a web 2.0 world."

The pace of change is so fast, he told delegates, that it is no longer possible for the publicly-owned BBC - annual budget circa £3.8 billion ($6.67bn; €5.48bn) - to do everything inhouse. "We have a duty of universality. So it's vital that we innovate through a number of strategic partnerships with technology companies and [local broadcast rivals] NTL and Telewest."

But despite forging such alliances, declared Highfield, the BBC's prime objective remains to "bring viewers back to a BBC-branded environment". As to content, the BBC will continue to jealously guard this.

Although it will work with companies such as Google, it is important that licence fee payers and other visitors to the BBC's array of sites worldwide are not seduced from their link with the BBC.

It is also vital that the broadcaster continues to develop online community networks and other related content around its shows. "That's not possible if you simply hand content over," averred Highfield.

He joined with Bill Gates in a public demonstration of the BBC's latest gizmo - an integrated media player that allows viewers access to any BBC TV or radio show aired over the preceding seven days. The demo harnessed Windows Vista, Microsoft's next-generation operating system due to be released later this year.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff