Ex-BBC director general apologises for defunct IT project


Former BBC director general Mark Thompson has apologised to TV licence fee payers over the failure of the broadcaster's multi-million pound Digital Media Initiative (DMI).

The apology took place during Thompson's hearing with the Government's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday into why DMI failed.

"I want to apologise to you and to the public for the failure of this project," he said.

The project's aim was to create a tapeless digital production and archiving system to help the broadcaster's staff manage video and audio content from their desktops.

The initiative ran into difficulties, and was canned in May 2013, with the BBC concluding that much of the 125.9 million spent on the project had been wasted.

The CTO overseeing the project, John Linwood, was suspended at the same time, before being sacked from his 287,000 a year role two months later without a pay-off.

Thompson, meanwhile, left his role as director general in 2012 after eight years with the company.

Around the same time as a damning report into the DMI's failures was published by the National Audit Office, it emerged Linwood was planning to sue the BBC over their treatment of him.

"I have issued legal proceedings against the BBC and intimated contractual claims, and am still involved in an internal process with the BBC," he revealed in written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee.

During his time in front of the committee yesterday, Thompson denied he had misled MPs about the project's progress and reiterated some of the successes it had with DMI.

For instance, he told MPs the technology had been used by several programmes, including BBC 1's flagship light entertainment programme The One Show, which had led him to believe the project was going well.

"In my time, I thought great efforts were made by BBC Vision and BBC North to get DMI to work," he said.

"I know there were tensions but I don't think in themselves they were the reason for the failure of the project."

However, he did suggest the information fed back to his team about how the project was progressing was "not everything it should have been" and details about what was going wrong should have been passed on "more urgently than it was".

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.