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BBC admits wasting £100m of licence payers' money on digital archive project

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BBC director general Tony Hall has scrapped a multi-million-pound attempt to create an internal digital archive after its director-general said the scheme had wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money

BBC director general Tony Hall has scrapped a multi-million-pound attempt to create an internal digital archive after its director-general said the scheme had wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money

PA

BBC director general Tony Hall has scrapped a multi-million-pound attempt to create an internal digital archive after its director-general said the scheme had wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money

The BBC has scrapped a multi-million-pound attempt to create an internal digital archive after director-general Tony Hall said the scheme had "wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money".

The Digital Media Initiative (DMI) has cost the corporation £98.4 million since it was started in 2008.

Mr Hall said: "The DMI project has wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers' money and I saw no reason to allow that to continue which is why I have closed it.

"I have 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.

"Ambitious technology projects like this always carry a risk of failure, it does not mean we should not attempt them but we have a responsibility to keep them under much greater control than we did here."

The BBC has suspended its chief technology officer John Linwood while the review is carried out.

The DMI was an attempt to link the corporation's vast broadcasting archive to a digital production system that would make it more easily accessible to staff.

BBC Trust member Anthony Fry said the project had "generated little or no assets" for the corporation.

In a letter to Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee which investigated the project, he said: "This is because much of the software and hardware which has been developed could only be used by the BBC if the project were completed, a course of action which, due to technological difficulties and changes to business needs, would be, I fear, equivalent to throwing good money after bad."

He said accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers would carry out an external review "to establish what went wrong within the BBC in terms of project management, control and governance".

Mr Fry said the trust wanted "to understand how the reporting to the executive board, its audit committee, and the finance committee of the trust appears to have failed to give any true picture of the extent of the problems with this project until late 2012".

Ms Hodge warned the corporation two years ago that it needed a "'more vigilant approach to value for money" after a hearing about the project.

The contract to develop the project, designed to help staff use video and audio material, was initially given to Siemens but later cancelled and brought back in house when it was not delivered on time.

Former director-general Mark Thompson told the committee in 2011 that DMI was "critical" to the BBC's move to Media City in Salford and the new Broadcasting House set-up.

He said: "A lot of the future of the BBC is tied up in the successful delivery of this project."

Mr Linwood, who joined the BBC from Yahoo! in 2009, earns a salary of £280,000.

According to the BBC website, he is "responsible for delivering the BBC's technology strategy".

Belfast Telegraph