BBC's Huggers 'Slated For Job', But 'No Announcement Due'

This story was written by Robert Andrews.
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 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, 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 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.

But he would also inherit a division from which radical changes are expected, after last year's 36 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's entertainment business, he promptly brought two MSFT alumni with him. With that new-look team, his latest top task was building a new video delivery network. He has taken well to the BBC's increasing need for transparency (keeping a good blog and speaking openly at a recent conference). Highfield joined Kangaroo on July 1 after leading iPlayer through multiplatform controversy to web-based popularity; he left on a 466,00 salary, last week's annual report showed.

By Robert Andrews