MPs label BBC's Digital Media Initiative a "complete failure"

By Danny Palmer
10 Apr 2014 View Comments
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The BBC's £100m Digital Media Initiative (DMI) has been labelled "a complete failure" by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, which also accuses the media corporation of being "far too complacent" about the risks involved.

The DMI project, which cost £98.4m, was designed to provide a completely digital platform for BBC programming and archiving but failed to get off the ground, ultimately costing former BBC CTO John Linwood his job.

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"The BBC's Digital Media Initiative was a complete failure. Licence fee payers paid nearly £100m for this supposedly essential system but got virtually nothing in return," said The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

She described DMI as "slower and more cumbersome than the 40-year-old system it was designed to replace" and noted how it only had 163 regular users despite a running cost of £3m a year, a figure almost four times as high as the previous system.

Hodge accused the BBC of complacency over the project, which wasn't properly accountable to any particular individual or body within the organisation.

"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," she said, adding that despite warnings the project was failing, nobody acted.

"Lack of clearly defined responsibility and accountability meant the corporation failed to respond to warning signals that the programme was in trouble."

The committee's report also describes the BBC Trust has having "demonstrated similar complacency in its poor oversight of the executive's implementation of the DMI."

"Both the BBC Executive and the Trust need to overhaul their approach to managing and implementing major projects so that they properly safeguard licence fee payers' money," Hodge added.

A spokesperson for The BBC Trust admitted DMI "represented an unacceptable loss to licence fee payers," adding that the corporation's governing body has since altered its protocol for spotting and eliminating similar issues.

"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," they said in a statement.

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

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