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BBC 'culture and climate' attacked

The "culture and climate" at the top of the BBC has been criticised by an employment tribunal that found the corporation's former technology chief was unfairly dismissed in the fallout from a failed IT project that cost licence-fee payers almost £100 million.

John Linwood, who was paid a salary of £280,000, was sacked weeks after being suspended over the multimillion-pound failure of the digital media initiative (DMI).

The BBC ploughed £125.9 million into the scheme - an attempt to create an integrated digital production and archiving system - before it was scrapped by current director-general Tony Hall in his first weeks in the job, leaving a net cost of £98.4 million.

The central London tribunal said Mr Linwood's claim he was unfairly dismissed was "well-founded", but added that he had "contributed" to his dismissal. It rejected two other complaints he made against the corporation.

Mr Linwood told the hearing that after leaving one meeting about his future, he was told by the BBC's head of strategy, John Tate, that the procedure was "a stitch up".

It also heard from the BBC's then head of communications Gavin Dawson that Mr Linwood was "arguably" a scapegoat, but he added that "is not the way I would characterise it".

The tribunal said there was a culture of "sacrificial responsibility" at the BBC when something went wrong and it quoted from emails between Pat Younge, the BBC's then chief creative officer, and Mr Linwood's boss Dominic Coles which it described as "extraordinarily unattractive".

In one, Mr Younge said Mr Linwood could "just spin in the wind" while Mr Coles could "position yourself as the man who took it over, reviewed it and called time".

The tribunal said: " This culture and climate also gave rise to avoidance strategies, no doubt including, on occasion, the steering of the spotlight of blame in other directions, on the part of those who felt themselves to be in danger of association with a sinking ship".

It also said some HR staff behaved at times with "a cavalier disregard for any of the accepted norms of a fair disciplinary process" by not giving Mr Linwood enough time to study some of the evidence against him.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Linwood said: "Serious allegations of misconduct were made against me out of the blue and without any foundation or prior investigation. I was told to resign or be put through a disciplinary process and face dismissal. I refused to resign because I had not committed any act of misconduct."

He added: " I believe I was made a scapegoat by the BBC. I am profoundly grateful to the employment tribunal for getting to the heart of this whole sorry episode."

His solicitor, Louise Hobbs, of Signet Partners LLP, said: "The judgment gives an unedifying insight into the inner workings of the BBC at senior management level."

A BBC spokesman said it had been " a very difficult set of circumstances" for the corporation.

He said: " We had a major failure of a significant project, and we had lost confidence - as the tribunal acknowledges - in John Linwood. At the time we believed we acted appropriately. The tribunal has taken a different view - we are disappointed with the outcome, but nevertheless we will learn lessons from the judgment and we're grateful to staff who were involved in dealing with a very difficult case."

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