Sacked BBC CTO wins unfair dismissal case

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Sacked BBC CTO wins unfair dismissal case

Caroline Baldwin

Former BBC chief technology officer John Linwood has won his case for unfair dismissal against the broadcaster.

The tribunal ruled in Linwood’s favour, saying he contributed only 15% to his own dismissal, and that the BBC was wrong to sack him.

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Linwood claimed he was made the scapegoat for the BBC's failed £100m Digital Media Initiative (DMI). In January this year, he was sacked from his £280,000-a-year post as CTO.

The DMI project was intended to link digital production tools with a central, digital archive for BBC staff to access throughout the production process, but it was scrapped in May 2013, which led to Linwood’s dismissal.

Linwood has maintained that the BBC tried to pin the blame for the project's failure on the technology to avoid facing up to the truth that it had written off tens of millions of pounds' worth of software which could have been used.

The DMI contract was originally awarded to Siemens in 2008, but was brought back in-house after the supplier failed to deliver the technology and began to hit long delays.

Linwood said some of the technology produced during the DMI could have gone live, including production tools and the archive system, but the BBC's business arm chose not to use them.

He said it was never stated that technology was one of the issues that caused the project to be terminated. The BBC said its business vision had changed and the DMI was no longer valid. “Not once did they say there were technology issues,” Linwood told the public accounts committee earlier this year.

On his personal website Linwood stated: “Serious allegations of misconduct were made against me out of the blue and without any foundation or prior investigation. I was told to resign or be put through a disciplinary process and face dismissal. I refused to resign because I had not committed any act of misconduct.

“I believe I was made a scapegoat by the BBC. I am profoundly grateful to the Employment Tribunal for getting to the heart of this whole sorry episode.”

A BBC spokesman said it the situation was very difficult for the BBC. "We had a major failure of a significant project, and we had lost confidence – as the tribunal acknowledges – in John Linwood. At the time, we believed we acted appropriately.

“The tribunal has taken a different view. We are disappointed with the outcome, but nevertheless we will learn lessons from the judgment and we are grateful to the staff who were involved in dealing with a very difficult case.”

Linwood has since taken up a role as CTO at global energy, metals and mining research and consultancy group, Wood Mackenzie.

Stephen Halliday, CEO at the company, said: “It is to John’s enormous credit that he has been performing at an extremely high level for us while under enormous pressure as a result of this case. We’re very lucky to have him as a key member of our senior team.”

 


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