BBC suspends CTO after failed £100 million CMS

The broadcasting company's tapeless digital archive project burned through taxpayer money and caused nothing but "chaos," according to a new report.


The BBC, Britain's public broadcasting service, has reportedly suspended chief technology officer John Linwood after declaring its five-year, £100 million project to convert the organization's extensive video archives a failure.

The project, dubbed the Digital Media Initiative, intended to create a working production system that also gave its users easy access to volumes of archival footage. But the project was nothing but trouble, according to a report in The Guardian, blocking editors' access to footage for inclusion in high-profile breaking news reports and causing them to literally carry, via public transit and hired taxi, tapes from the company's physical archive in northwest London.

Tara Conlan and Charles Arthur report:

In an email to all BBC staff on Friday, director-general Tony Hall said he was halting DMI and admitted: "We have a responsibility to spend licence-fee payers' money as if it was our own and I'm sorry to say we did not do that here."

One insider called the DMI project "the axis of awful", while another source said: "The scale of the project was too big and it got out of hand."

Linwood, a Yahoo and Microsoft veteran, was responsible for the project. He has temporarily been replaced by BBC News head of technology Peter Coles.

Damningly, one BBC Trust member wrote to a member of parliament that the publicly-funded organization was "throwing good money after bad." The £98.4 million project was projected to save £95.4 million by halving the amount of video-handling needed to call up such footage, and was apparently 21 months behind schedule after only 24 months of development.

One member of Y Combinator's Hacker News community had tough words for the project.

"It serves as both a cautionary tale on outsourcing and a good example of when to recognise a sunk cost," jumblesale7 wrote. "The technology surrounding what they were trying to achieve has changed massively in that time frame but doesn't excuse them from delivering nothing of value."