Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

BBC interactive TV boss rejects Salford move

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

For Broadcast July 17, 2009

Rahul Chakkara, the exec behind interactive TV at the BBC and one of the key drivers of Project Canvas, is believed to be planning to leave the corporation

Chakkara, controller of TV platforms for the BBC, has made the decision not to move to Salford in Manchester, where the interactive TV team will relocate in 2011. Officially he remains in his post and is being offered to reapply for other jobs at the BBC but it is understood that he will be leaving the corporation.

However, Chakkara, who has been in his current job since 2004, said in a statement that he had “not resigned from the BBC” but confirmed he had sent an email to staff stating “the move to Salford is not for me for personal reasons which I outlined”.

“My options are the same as any other staff member who is not heading North in that I’m looking for a new role in BBC,” said Chakkara’s statement, issued by the BBC. “Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with the regulatory process Project Canvas is going through”.

The BBC said that Chakkara’s decision would be a personal matter and would not comment further.

The TV Platfoms unit consists of about 100 people, including those who are working on the IPTV Canvas project that is currently being co-developed by the BBC, ITV and BT. TV Platforms also licenses the BBC iPlayer to other providers like Virgin Media, which offers the catch-up service to its cable TV subscribers.

Canvas is being spearheaded by the BBC’s R & D department in conjunction with the TV Platforms team with a view to bringing broadband services to the TV. However, Canvas first must be approved by the BBC Trust, which recently asked the BBC for further information before it reaches its decision. It is understood that the delay in the Trust’s decision about Canvas has been frustrating for the team and could have contributed to Chakkara’s decision to leave.

Erik Huggers, the head of BBC Future Media & Technolog,y would like to see Canvas rolled out in 2010 but industry observers believe 2011 or 2012 is more realistic now.

Only about a third of the BBC Platforms group has agreed to move to Manchester, but junior managers have until September to let the BBC know if they want to re-locate or not.

Separately, it is understood that the Trust will be publishing the extra information provided by the BBC regarding Canvas next week.

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