Entertainment & Arts

Mark Thompson to face MPs over failed £100m BBC project

Mark Thompson
Image caption Mark Thompson gave evidence on BBC pay-offs last month

Former BBC director general Mark Thompson has been ordered to answer MPs' questions over the corporation's failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI).

The project, which was designed to do away with tapes and digitise the BBC's archives, was abandoned in May at a cost of £98.4m

The Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday it was "dismayed" by the collapse and would investigate further.

It intends to ask Mr Thompson whether MPs were misled about the scheme.

The former director general told the committee in February 2011 the DMI project was "on track" and there were "many programmes being made" with it.

He also ruled out any "significant further delays" in its introduction, and added: "I think you are going to see a broader deployment of the system across the BBC than we expected, because of the enthusiasm with which it is being used".

Later that month, the National Audit Office reported DMI had "progressed well" after the BBC took control of the project from technology firm Siemens.

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Media captionJames Purnell, BBC's director of strategy and digital, speaking in May: "We've messed up, we're sorry"

However in May this year, the entire initiative was scrapped. The BBC Trust said it had "delivered little or no assets" and should be shut down to prevent "throwing good money after bad".

"This is, on a personal level, probably the most seriously embarrassing thing I've ever seen," BBC Trustee Anthony Fry told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in June.

In a statement, Mr Thompson insisted his 2011 testimony had been given "honestly and in good faith".

He added: "I did so on the basis of information provided to me at the time by the BBC executives responsible for delivering the project."

No date has been set for his appearance in front of the committee, although the meeting will not take place until next year.

It will be the second time he has been called to answer MPs questions since becoming chief executive of the New York Times, following his previous testimony on BBC management pay-offs in September.

A spokesman for the committee said Mr Thompson was "happy to come and give evidence" again, although he may appear by video link if necessary - and that other witnesses would also be called.

The BBC Trust has asked accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers to complete an independent review into the DMI failure. The National Audit Office may also compile a report next year.

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