The BBC is dragging Radio 2 kicking and screaming into the 21st century by appointing a digital music expert as head of music. Jeff Smith, currently director of programming at Napster UK, replaces current boss Colin Martin who announced his imminent retirement in December last year.
Smith said, "Technology is transforming our industry, and I look forward to working with the music industry and my colleagues at Radio 2 to engage our listeners in the very best music in innovative new ways."
Lesley Douglas, head controller at BBC 6 Music and Radio 2 commented, "Colin Martin is a very hard act to follow but I have no doubt that Jeff's love of music, industry experience and recent role at Napster puts him in a unique position to move Radio 2 forward.
"It is crucial that we remain distinct in the market place and I believe that Jeff is the person to embrace the full breadth of music on the network."
For the BBC to appoint such a big figure from the world of digital music indicates that Radio 2, which is the most-listened to radio station in the UK, has one eye on the future of broadcasting.
"For the BBC to recruit from Napster for such a pivotal role in UK radio indicates how important digital has become in the development of the music industry," said Leanne Sharman, vice president and general manager at Napster UK.
There is no official word about how exactly Smith is going to help Radio 2 move forward, but there is some speculation that he could ignite a renewed, modern online output initiative. The BBC has already said that it plans to make its TV programmes available online and to offer free digital music downloads too. The appointment of the former Napster executive is obviously intended to strengthen the BBC's position in this area.
The BBC's website already enables you listen to past broadcasts but the whole thing is very laborious and a new online interface would bring the site up to current online standards. The Beeb has already partnered with photo sharing site Flickr , as well as virtual community Second Life , where Radio 1 hosted an online concert last year.
According to Ashley Highfield, director of Future Media and Technology at the BBC, the Beeb plans to move more in this direction , creating websites tailored to individuals.