BBC technology chief John Linwood sacked over failed £100m IT project

By Sooraj Shah
27 Jan 2014 View Comments
BBC's John Linwood

The BBC's former chief technology officer (CTO) John Linwood was sacked in July over the failed £98m digital production system, the organisation has confirmed.

Linwood, who was reportedly earning about £287,000 a year before bonuses, had been suspended in May after the organisation's chief executive Tony Hall said the project had "wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money". He did not receive a pay-off after the termination of his contract, a BBC spokesman said.

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The news of Linwood's sacking had been delayed for legal reasons.

The £98m digital production system was part of the Digital Media Initiative, which was launched in 2008 and aimed at changing the way staff developed, used and shared multimedia material, according to the BBC.

But the project was blighted by issues and never became fully operational. It was the subject of several negative reviews; the BBC Trust had expressed serious concerns leading to an internal review in October 2012, while a National Audit Office report in 2011 found that the initiative was "not good value for money". In December, PwC slammed the BBC for its "broken" system of governance that enabled a runaway IT bill to be run up on an unworkable system. 

Following Linwood's suspension an independent review was set up to investigate what went wrong.

Linwood's suspension and subsequent sacking suggest that he has been held accountable for the initiative, which the BBC believes was badly managed and did not keep up with the pace of change in technology.

However, the BBC's view contrasts with that of Linwood, who told Computing in February last year that the BBC was looking at ways to be "transformational with technology".

"I'm trying not to do straight like-for-like replacement when technology reaches its end of life, but investing in ways to do things differently. I want to reduce the overall technology capital base, so spending less money on just replacing kit, and more on making us more responsive, agile, flexible and mobile," he said.

The former BBC CTO also revealed the BBC's role in helping Apple develop the iPhone and the iPad, and added that the BBC's IT budget is continually increasing.

"Technology is part of everything we do at the BBC, and it's one of the biggest levers for driving effectiveness, efficiency and improved quality. So we're spending more on technology now and we'll spend more next year," he said at the time.

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