The education business may soon offer commercial opportunities that dwarf those of the entertainment industry, Sir David Puttnam believes.
Multimedia producers in the United Kingdom have in their gift the cultural equivalent of North Sea oil, but the opportunity could easily be missed, the distinguished film director warned.
Sir David, nursing a chronic cold, was at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in London for the launch of BAFTA's new awards for interactive multimedia.
Sponsored by Apple Computer, the awards will attempt to recognise a comprehensive range of new talents, including those applied in educational productions. The academy will announce the full awards list in the new year. Sir David said that the UK already had an unrivalled wealth of skills, particularly in television and education, that could be harnessed to build a coherent national industry.
He praised the work of interactive multimedia designers, whose work was on show at the launch, including the degree projects of Middlesex University students.
But Sir David warned that these precious skills, which could help construct a new industrial base in information technology, could be wasted in the same way as North Sea oil without bold public policies and private sector investment.
The success of the Open University revealed a global demand for English-language distance learning, an area where multimedia worked well. "Yet in 1995 there is likely to be a trade deficit in learning materials for the first time," he said.
Sir David's appeal was echoed by Stephen Boyd Davis, principal lecturer at Middlesex University's centre for electronic arts. He reminded the audience of media professionals and academics that all new media had been feared, from the novel through to cinema and television.
Mr Davis, whose students were praised by BAFTAmembers for excellent work on a tight budget urged planners to have courage and back the fledgling revolution.