BBC admits £100 million IT project was a “waste”
The BBC has scrapped a digital media project costing £98.4 million, admitting the exercise had wasted a “huge amount” of licence fee payers’ money.
The broadcaster also suspended chief technology officer John Linwood on full pay as it investigates the project’s poor management.
The Digital Media Initiative (DMI) was set up in 2008 to update the BBC’s production processes, making its content more accessible to staff across different locations after the move to Salford. That included tools to let staff produce and share content via a central database and making it easier to dig into the BBC’s vast archives.
The DMI project has wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money and I saw no reason to allow that to continue which is why I have closed it
The BBC has now admitted that the software and hardware developed for the project hadn’t delivered value for money, and that it would ditch the project entirely to avoid more costs.
“The DMI project has wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money and I saw no reason to allow that to continue which is why I have closed it,” said BBC director general Tony Hall. “I have serious concerns about how we managed this project and the review that has been set up is designed to find out what went wrong and what lessons can be learned.”
Hall added that the failure wouldn’t prevent the BBC from trying “ambitious” IT projects in future.
The BBC’s director of operations, Dominic Coles, noted that the DMI had been a “challenging project”, highlighting problems with the original contractor, Siemens.
The BBC awarded Siemens the contract for developing the tech in 2008, but didn’t test the company against other suppliers, something that subsequently drew MPs’ fire. Siemens failed to deliver the technology, and the pair terminated their agreement in 2009, with the BBC bringing development in-house.
But Coles said the BBC couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace of change, and said the system struggled with the demands placed on it.
“Developing such an ambitious and technically complex solution that was able to cope with the myriad demands BBC programmes would place upon it due to the variety and complexity of our content, proved far more challenging than expected, which led to delays,” said Coles.
He added that the BBC “never forgets” it is spending fee payers’ money. The corporation’s overseer, the BBC Trust, has launched an independent review of the project and Coles said it would take disciplinary action “where appropriate”.