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BBC man Linwood 'was unfairly sacked' over £100 MILLION DMI omnifail

Employment tribunal rules Beeb acted unfairly on dismissal

BBC logo 2012

A BBC technology chief who took the fall for the Corporation's failed £100m Digital Media Initiative was unfairly dismissed, an employment tribunal has ruled..

The tribunal that found that the BBC broke the law in suspending its chief technology officer, John Linwood.

The tribunal found Linwood was unfairly dismissed under the Employment Rights Act 1996. It did, however, find Linwood’s own conduct helped contribute to his dismissal. It also rejected Linwood’s claims he was subjected to unlawful detriment because he made “protected disclosures.”

In a statement the BBC stood by it's decision saying it was "disappointed" by the tribunal's ruling and belived it had acted appropriately at the time.

"This was a very difficult set of circumstances for the BBC. We had a major failure of a significant project, and we had lost confidence - as the tribunal acknowledges - in John Linwood," a spokesperson said.

"Nevertheless we will learn lessons from the judgment and we’re grateful to staff who were involved in dealing with a very difficult case.”

Linwood was placed on gardening leave while drawing full pay in May 2013 over the failure of the multi-year Digital Media Initiative (DMI).

DMI, described as the next big thing at the BBC, was a project to build a digital content management system, and had been running since 2004. The project cost at least £98m with nothing delivered. The BBC has an annual IT budget of £400m.

Linwood pocketed annual salary of £287,000 and inherited DMI on joining in the BBC in 2009 from Yahoo!, where he’d been senior vice president of international engineering.

Linwood claimed he was made a scapegoat for DMI’s collapse. He said he was told, out of the blue, that he could resign or face dismissal from disciplinary action that began 10 days before BBC director general Tony Hall announced the cancellation of DMI.

Hall had branded DMI a “huge waste” of BBC license fee payers' money, saying he cancelled the mega project because he saw no reason to continue.

It would have been “throwing good money after bad,” BBC trustee Anthony Fry wrote in a letter to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

Before being canned the DMI project was the subject of criticism by the National Audit Office, which said in 2011 DMI was “not value for money.”

Started in 2004, DMI was outsourced to Siemens IT Solutions and Services, without a open procurement process - a step the BBC justified saying it was necessary because of the lengthy nature of the EU’s public procurement process and the impact this would have on other “time-critical" BBC projects. The Siemens unit bought by Atos and the BBC finally brought the project back in house in 2009. ®

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