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BBC cans £98m Digital Media Initiative and suspends CTO

Kathleen Hall

The BBC has canned its £98m Digital Media Initiative (DMI) and suspended project head and CTO John Linwood.

The DMI project was intended to link digital production tools with a central, digital archive for BBC staff to access throughout the production process. Originally the contract was awarded to Siemens in 2008, but was brought back in-house after the supplier failed to deliver the technology and it began to hit large delays.

A spokesman from the BBC said that, because Linwood was the sponsor of the DMI project, he had been suspended while an internal review was underway.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said the project had wasted a huge amount of Licence Fee payers’ money. 

"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," said Hall.

"Ambitious technology projects like this always carry a risk of failure, it does not mean we should not attempt them but we have a responsibility to keep them under much greater control than we did here.”

The decision follows an internal report as to whether the DMI still met the need for digital tapeless production at the BBC. 

Dominic Coles, director of operations at the BBC, paused the project in October 2012. “The pace of technological and digital change has been rapid; business and production requirements changed within the BBC; and the industry has developed standardised off-the-shelf digital production tools that did not exist five years ago,” he wrote in a blog post.

Coles said the cost of the project was great because much of the software and hardware which had been developed would only have a value if the project was completed.

“We cannot continue to sanction any additional spending on this initiative,” he said

However, development work will continue on the Fabric Archive Database, at no additional cost over and above the total figure.

Coles said the BBC would deliver a more digital environment in the future using more manageable stages, stricter project management controls and clearer objectives that reflect the current business and technological requirements.  

“The lesson isn’t that the BBC shouldn’t be bold and ambitious in charting new territory. The lesson is that we must put in place the right steps to ensure our major infrastructure projects deliver," he said.

 


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