A Committee of MPs has described the BBC’s Digital Media Initiative as a “complete failure” and accused the Corporation of complacency and a lack of transparency in its dealings with parliamentary bodies.
The Rt. Hon. Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, speaking as the Committee published a report examining the BBC’s Digital Media Initiative (DMI), said: “The BBC’s Digital Media Initiative was a complete failure. Licence fee payers paid nearly £100 million for this supposedly essential system but got virtually nothing in return.”
Hodge advised that the main output from the DMI was an archive catalogue and ordering system that is slower and more cumbersome than the 40-year-old system it was designed to replace. It has only 163 regular users and a running cost of £3 million a year, compared to £780,000 a year for the old system.
“When my Committee examined the DMI’s progress in February 2011, the BBC told us that the DMI was ‘an absolutely essential have to have’ and that a lot of the BBC’s future was tied up in the successful delivery of the DMI,” advised Hodge.
“The BBC also told us that it was using the DMI to make many programmes and was on track to complete the system in 2011 with no further delays. This turned out not to be the case. In reality the BBC only ever used the DMI to make one programme, called Bang Goes the Theory. The BBC was far too complacent about the high risks involved in taking it in-house. No single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose,” she claimed.
“Lack of clearly defined responsibility and accountability meant the Corporation failed to respond to warning signals that the programme was in trouble. The BBC Trust demonstrated similar complacency in its poor oversight of the Executive’s implementation of the DMI,” she added.
She recommended that both the BBC Executive and the Trust needed to overhaul their approach to managing and implementing major projects so that they properly safeguard licence fee payers’ money. “It is not clear why the BBC failed to share important evidence, a 2010 report from Accenture about the DMI, with my Committee or the National Audit Office when it reported on the DMI’s progress in January 2011, which contributed to our false impression of the progress by DMI. My Committee expects the BBC to be completely transparent in its dealings with us and the NAO and tell us of any potentially significant evidence or facts in a timely way,” she concluded.
In May 2013, the BBC cancelled the DMI at a cost to licence fee payers of £98.4 million.