The BBC has admitted wasting almost £100m of public money on a failed technology project which has “generated little or no assets”.
In 2008 the BBC Trust authorised BBC managers to proceed with the Digital Media Initiative (DMI), an ambitious project aimed at creating a digital archive of the corporation’s archive content.
BBC managers promised that DMI would reduce the costs of accessing archive content and simplify its use. However the project has been plagued by delays and technical woes despite costing Licence Fee Payers £98.4m.
Some aspects, including the Fabric Archive Database which allows users to search and request access to the BBC’s archive of tapes and other media, have been deployed.
However writing on the BBC’s blogs today, the corporation’s Director of Operations Dominic Coles says even these needed modification post-deployment after negative user feedback.
The admission suggests the needs and concerns of users were not addressed sufficiently early in the development phase.
The wider project was suspended last year after the BBC Trust expressed concerns about mounting costs and lack of progress.
Today the BBC’s new Director General Lord Tony Hall announced he had axed the project saying it had “wasted a huge amount of Licence Fee payers’ money.”
Hall has also set up a review into the project’s failings and suspended a senior member of staff connected to it.
He added that he has “serious concerns about how we managed this project and the review that has been set up is designed to find out what went wrong and what lessons can be learned.”
The Director General said that although “ambitious technology projects” carry an inherent risk of failure, “we have a responsibility to keep them under much greater control than we did here.”
Separately the BBC Trust has written to the House of Commons Public Affairs Committee expressing its “utmost concern” at the failures.
In his letter to Chair Margaret Hodge, Trustee Anthony Fry has invited the committee to “exert appropriate parliamentary scrutiny by holding a hearing” into the conclusions of the Trust’s own review which revealed “an overwhelmingly negative picture”.
Fry said the Trust was “extremely concerned by the way the project has been managed and reported to us and we intend to act quickly to ensure that that there can be no repeat of a failure on this scale.”
In recent years the BBC has axed a number of much-loved shows and scaled-back viewer services such as the Red Button which might otherwise have continued had so much money not been wasted on the DMI.