Former BBC CTO claims he is the “fall guy” for failed £100m DMI project

By Sooraj Shah
16 May 2014 View Comments
BBC's John Linwood

Former BBC chief technology officer (CTO) John Linwood has suggested that he was a "fall guy" for the BBC's failed £100m Digital Media Initiative.

DMI, which ended up costing £98.4m before it was embarrassingly scrapped, was intended to provide a completely digital platform for BBC programming and archiving, enabling video tape to be consigned to history. It would also enable clips and complete programmes to be uploaded, downloaded, edited or archived as necessary.

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Linwood, who was sacked from his £287,000 role at the BBC, following a suspension in May 2013 because of the failed initiative, is taking legal action against the organisation over his sacking.

He claimed that the DMI project only accounted for an average of five per cent of his working time as CTO, and reiterated that in his four year spell at the BBC "technology delivered hundreds of projects successfully", the Guardian reports.

But the BBC maintains that Linwood was project sponsor and chair of the DMI steering group and so was ultimately responsible for the project and its failings.

Linwood was questioned by the tribunal about e-mails suggesting that there was a ‘plan B' put into place - the BBC believes that these plans, which were on a need to know basis showed that Linwood was "secretive about the technological problems of DMI".

However, Linwood said that BBC North was nervous about the project and wanted a fall back plan in place, which shouldn't have been communicated to all of the staff working on the DMI project because they were "putting their heart and soul" into the system as it would have been "hugely demoralising".

He added that the delays on the project were not all down to technology issues, and were in fact because of a change in requirements, or unclear instructions coming from the business.

But DMI consultant Alastair Ford claimed that the BBC had not changed its requirements, while Linwood's former colleague and DMI programme director Peter O'Kane told BBC human resources director Clare Dyer that the DMI "is a failure without question, judged by delivery against requirements, time to deliver and overall cost".

The one piece of technology delivered from the project, called Fabric, is widely regarded by staff as worse than Infax, the system it is supposed to be replacing.

Linwood, who was planning to leave the BBC for a job at Deutsche Bank before DMI was axed, admitted he was the "accountable senior person" for the project.

The tribunal continues.

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