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MP 'shocked' at failures 'at the top' of the BBC over epic DMI tech fail

Just wait until next week's bloodbath evidence session

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Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has said that the failure of the BBC to realise that its Digitial Media Initiative uber-project was headed for certain doom went "right to the top".

Hodge, who is due to quiz senior members of the Beeb again on Monday next week, said that she was shocked by the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the failed IT project, which wasted nearly £100m of licence-fee payers' money.

"This report reads like a catalogue of how not to run a major programme," she said. "I was shocked to learn how poor the BBC’s governance arrangements for the Digital Media Initiative (DMI) were. There was no Senior Responsible Owner with complete oversight of all aspects of programme’s delivery.

"If the BBC had established clearer accountability and stronger reporting it could have recognised the issues much earlier and set about minimising the astronomic losses for the licence fee payer," added the Labour MP.

The DMI was supposed to create a digital archive and database of BBC materials to replace physical libraries of old footage, giving producers access to digitised versions of everything. Instead the whole project was canned last year with nothing to show for it, despite senior executives getting warnings as early as 2010 that things weren't going well.

"These failures go right to the top," Hodge said. "The BBC needs to learn from the mistakes it made and ensure that it never again spends such a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money with almost nothing to show for it.

"I look forward to discussing this with senior, and former senior, members of the BBC," she added.

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee will get the chance to question the BBC again next week, when former BBC director general Mark Thompson, now chief exec at the New York Times, former BBC finance head Zarin Patel, trustee Anthony Fry, former COO Caroline Thomson and director of operations Dominic Coles appear before them.

Ex-chief technology officer John Linwood, the only one to lose his job over the whole thing, has told the committee in written evidence (pdf) that he'll be taking legal action against the BBC. He claims that the Beeb allowed inaccurate statements to be made about the DMI to the committee.

Bill Garrett, former head of TV technology at the corporation, has also claimed in his own evidence that staff falsified estimates of financial benefits and that he was told to stay silent when he raised concerns about the project. ®

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