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BBC 'agenda setter' in Auckland

November 15, 2005

BBC 'agenda setter' in Auckland

You could argue there's no better blend in life than an excellent coffee, lively debate and great music. And when the blend is combined with an evening with one of the globe's noted 'agenda setters' it's enough to really clear the mind.

Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of new media and technology was the star guest at Auckland's fourth Karajoz Great Blend event on Sunday (November 13) at Hopetoun Alpha.

The Great Blend is where frank and lively political and social discussion - once abundant in café society - returns to the live forum in an event that is designed to entertain, inform and stimulate debate.

It is promoted by leading media commentator Russell Brown's group weblog site Public Address with the help of Karajoz Coffee Company and British Council New Zealand.

Highfield, was named third on's list of the Top 50 Agenda Setters this year, behind only Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Apple Computer's Steve Jobs.

He is a member of the BBC's nine-member executive board. Highfield's responsibilities span the spectrum of media directions, from the BBC's Creative Archive project to its Integrated Media Player trial, which delivers the corporation's programming to broadband Internet users.

Ashley Highfield was interviewed on stage by Russell Brown on a range of issues affecting new media. He particularly emphasised the importance of connecting with the audience.

"The BBC has always been about informing, educating and entertaining and today I would now add to this, engaging."

Highfield says following South East Asia's Tsunami last year, many people realised the news value of being in the middle of the story as it is happening.

"The rise of camera-phones and people understanding the power of blogs and eyewitness accounts - this has turned everyone into citizen journalists.

"However, these modern-day chroniclers still need a trusted institution such as the BBC to communicate their experiences."

And people want to receive the information when it's convenient for them.

"Society wants to be informed but on its own terms. If you force someone to watch your programme at 8pm, then you will be commercially dead."

In the second half of the Karajoz Great Blend event, both Highfield and Brown joined a panel discussion with influential local figures from the Internet, broadcasting and advertising industries.

They included Michael Carney from Mediacom, Regan Cunliffe from Idolblog, Julie Christie of Touchdown Pictures and David Murphy from TVNZ.

The Karajoz Great Blend was Highfield's only public appearance in New Zealand apart from a similar function in Wellington held the following night.

The event also featured performances by the sweet-voiced Ladi Six and 'sound manipulating artists' Pitch Black.


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