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Ashley Highfield, the BBC's chief technology executive, is to quit the corporation to take the helm at Project Kangaroo, the cross-broadcaster internet TV venture.

It turns out that his "get stuffed" to ISPs is a parting shot of his reign as director of future media and technology. Project Kangaroo, which will offer TV catch-up from the BBC (after the seven-day iPlayer window), Channel 4 and ITV, is set to launch sometime late this year.

The vacancy Highfield leaves at the BBC is reckoned to be one of the most powerful positions in the UK internet industry. The role controls an annual budget of £400m.

His departure was rumoured on Friday, and today BBC Wordwide confirms that he will replace Leslie MacKenzie, Kangaroo's interim boss.

Highfield will take the lessons of iPlayer's lengthy and wasteful development into his new job. The BBC project was saved last year by a series of high-profile hires who have been instrumental in its resurgence since the launch of the web streaming version. The new guard include former Microsoft man Erik Huggers, and Anthony Rose, who was brought in from KaZaa.

Huggers is being touted as a possible successor.

For Reg readers, Highfield's tenure at the BBC has been most notable for the launch of the iPlayer TV catch-up service. Its second wind is now exposing tricksy ISP marketing, and could force net businesses and consumers to face the fact that bandwidth is currently a finite commodity.

Last week Highfield engaged in a barbed exchange over the issue with Tiscali. The ISP didn't like the tone of a blog posting he had written demanding unlimited packages to carry BBC content. Most working around the problems are convinced that some sort of technical compromise will have to be found to ensure quality of service.

Highfield will also be remembered for his claim, later recanted, that only 600 UK Linux users use the BBC website. ®

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