Feeds

BBC's Digital Moneypit Initiative known to be 'pile of dung' for years

Trust flushed enough licence cash to run Radio 4 down golden CMS toilet

New hybrid storage solutions

BBC executives ignored warnings that the corporation's £100m+ digital media extravaganza project DMI was on the rocks - and now it's being reported that the National Audit Office had been misled about the state of the project.

The extravagant scheme was cancelled by new Director General Tony Hall last month, with almost £100m spent and no resulting benefits or assets - and the BBC's technology chief is currently on paid leave. The real cost is likely to be higher. As it is, the money wasted exceeds the annual budget of BBC4 and CBeebies put together, and is roughly comparable to Radio 4's annual budget.

The Guardian reports that warnings made to management in 2010 were unheeded. Potentially more damaging is the revelation, also by Bill Garrett, a former technology chief at the Corporation, that the BBC may have misled the National Audit Office about the project.

Garrett says he wrote to the Trust a year ago with his concerns, which were widely known in the industry. The Trust, which is what the old BBC Board of Governors is called since being given a New Labour-style makeover in 2007, has commissioned PwC to investigate the DMI failure. The newspaper also voices concerns as to why it took so long to close down the grandiose scheme. One journalist described how DMI was characterised by a senior BBC executive as "a steaming pile of shit" in 2009, and how this state of affairs was "an open secret for years".

DMI was intended to replace tape and give every production team digital access to every other team's material on any device - a spectacularly unnecessary goal. A flavour of the lunacy that resulted can be gauged from this presentation from Raymond Le Gue, Programme Director, Digital Media Initiative, and subsequently 'Technology Controller of Creative Technologies and Workflows' until March this year.

"Staff play a game called production. And another game called archiving," le Gue boasts. "It's a giant brain," he adds, joking that once DMI completed the BBC could be called the "British Brain Corporation". Le Gue's expertise was gleaned while setting up a computer animation company in the 1990s. Go figure.

So DMI was hugely overambitious. But it was also regarded as untouchable - one of seven 'strategic' initiatives at the BBC, on a par with moving to Salford. Last year it was reported that "Severely stressed" BBC staff were sent to the private Priory Clinic - on the license fee - to recover, as a result of DMI.

What is surprising is that the National Audit Office gave it a green light in 2011.

"The technology solution for the Programme has so far proven to be valid," the government accountants concluded after an investigation into the technology transfer of assets from Siemens, and lauded the ambition of the scheme.

The NAO report revealed that the BBC Trust, which describes itself as acting to get value for money for the license fee payer on its website, became a cheerleader for the project. The NAO noted:

In June 2010 the BBC Trust gave weight to the strategic benefits of moving the BBC more fully into digital technology and the non-financial benefits expected from the Programme, such as improved creativity and increased partnership working with other organisations and potential public access to the BBC archives.

"Non-financial benefits"? "Public access to the archive"? Where there should have been realism and healthy scepticism, the Trust was dazzled by utopian digital woo. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.