Ashley Highfield to head Johnston Press

Newspaper printing press Johnston Press owns The Scotsman as well as local papers across the UK and Ireland

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Former BBC new media head Ashley Highfield has been appointed chief executive of Johnston Press, the regional newspaper group which owns The Scotsman.

He will succeed John Fry, who is to stand down on 31 October.

Mr Highfield is a vice president of Microsoft, responsible for its UK consumer and online business, including the UK's largest content portal, MSN.

Previously, he was director of new media and technology at the BBC.

Mr Highfield was responsible for the launch of the BBC iPlayer and was also editor-in-chief of BBC Online, after which he became chief executive of the video-on-demand BBC/ITV/C4 joint venture Project Kangaroo.

Mr Highfield started his career with Coopers and Lybrand Management Consultancy.

He later became managing director of Flextech (now Virgin Media) Interactive.

'Combined pedigree'

Johnston Press chairman Ian Russell said Mr Highfield's "combined online and media sector pedigree" would be a major strength in enabling the group to re-grow its business.

In May, the Edinburgh-based company reported a 10.6% drop in advertising for the first few months of the year.

It said public sector cuts had led to a 30% fall in job advertising revenues but added the rate of decline was beginning to slow.

Johnston Press recorded pre-tax profits of £16.5m in 2010, up from a loss of £114m in 2009.

As well as The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, Johnston Press owns local papers across the UK and Ireland including the Falkirk Herald - the weekly paper from which the company grew.

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