BBC was 'complacent' over failed £100m IT project

BBC The digital media project was set up in 2008

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The BBC was "far too complacent" in its handling of a failed IT project that cost licence fee payers £98.4m.

The Digital Media Initiative (DMI) was intended to move the BBC away from using and storing video tape.

But it was scrapped, with almost no results, after five years of development.

After investigating the demise of the project, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has branded the programme "a complete failure".

Chairman Margaret Hodge said the BBC needed to "overhaul" its approach to such projects, to "safeguard licence fee payers' money".

The BBC originally approved DMI in 2006. It was supposed to produce new editing tools, an online archive of the BBC's programmes and a new database.

Technology company Siemens was hired to develop the project in February 2008, and it was expected to be completed the following year.

Where the money went

  • Contractors - £46.7m
  • IT - £37.2m
  • Siemens costs - £24.9m
  • Consultancy - £8.4m
  • BBC staff - £6.4m
  • Other - £2.3m

However, after a series of delays, the project was brought in-house, There it floundered until last May, when the BBC's incoming director general, Tony Hall, admitted it had "wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money".

The gross estimate of the amount spent on DMI was £125.9m, although the BBC claims to have recouped £27.5m of that.

The BBC's technology chief, John Linwood, was sacked in July 2013 over the project's demise.

A previous report, by the National Audit Office (NAO), blamed "confusion and a lack of planning" for the failure.

It said that senior executives failed to take control of the project when it ran into trouble and "did not appear to appreciate the extent of the problems until a late stage".

Apology

The PAC published its own findings on Thursday. It reiterated several of the points raised in earlier reports and criticised the BBC for its failure to alert MPs of the problems.

"When my committee examined the DMI's progress in February 2011, the BBC told us that the DMI was... absolutely essential... and that a lot of the BBC's future was tied up in the successful delivery of the DMI," said Ms Hodge.

"The BBC also told us that it was using the DMI to make many programmes and was on track to complete the system in 2011 with no further delays.

"This turned out not to be the case. In reality the BBC only ever used the DMI to make one programme, called Bang Goes the Theory.

"The BBC was far too complacent about the high risks involved in taking it in-house. No single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose."

A BBC spokesman said: "Tony Hall was right to scrap the DMI project when he took over as director general last year. As we said at the time, the BBC didn't get DMI right and we apologised to licence fee payers.

"Since then we have completely overhauled how these projects are delivered so that there is crystal clear accountability and transparency."

A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, said: "As we have said before, this represented an unacceptable loss to licence fee payers.

"Acting on the conclusions of previous reports into DMI, we have strengthened reporting to the Trust so that problems are spotted early and dealt with quickly.

"We are also carrying out follow up reviews once projects are completed to make sure the lessons from DMI are being implemented."

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