Ex-BBC boss Mark Thompson apologises to MPs and public over wasting £100m on digital archive

 

Mark Thompson, former Director General of the BBC, made a personal apology to MPs and licence fee payers over a disastrous computer project on his watch led to £100m of licence fee money being wasted.

“I just want to say sorry,” he told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC). “I want to apologise to you and the public for the failure of this project.”

Mr Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times Company, was giving evidence on the failed Digital Media Initiative for the third time after again recalled by MPs who were angry over previous information supplied to them by the former Director General and other BBC executives.

The PAC chair Margaret Hodge asked him: “Were you misled?” He claimed his assertion that his positive account of the DMI in February 2011 was based on information he had been given at the time. “I believed it,” he said.

At the end of the hearing, Ms Hodge expressed sadness over the damage done to the BBC by the affair. She said she found the bureaucracy of the BBC “almost beyond parody” and claimed MPs had been offered “some half-truths” by the BBC executives who had given evidence to the committee’s hearings. “I just think the BBC does deserve better,” she said.

Mr Thompson and colleagues, including former Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson, repeatedly tried to point out that the BBC had successfully delivered many larger technology-related projects.

Stephen Barclay MP said that there were signs that the project was in trouble several years earlier than the BBC acted. Mr Thompson replied: “I think there’s some justice in what you say. It was very high risk. We believed at the time we were putting adequate governance in place – history suggests that we didn’t do that.”

Anthony Fry, a former member of the BBC Trust, expressed regret over the governing body’s failure to do more over DMI. “I wish sincerely that we had been able to take more actions than we did,” he said.

The MPs heard from Dominic Coles, the BBC’s Director of Operations under new Director General Tony Hall, that the DMI project had been “appalling value for money”. He said that the £125m digital archive, which was intended to serve the entire organisation, was so “clunky” that it was ten times slower than the 40-year-old system it was designed to replace and was regularly used by only 163 people at the BBC.

Towards the end of his evidence, Mr Thompson was questioned by Stewart Jackson MP over a legal letter sent to the Sunday Times on 6 September 2012 in which he and his former head of news Helen Boaden had threatened to sue the paper over a proposed article about Jimmy Savile’s sex offences on BBC premises.

Mr Thompson has claimed to have had no detailed knowledge of the Savile affair when Director General. But he said the lawyer’s letter had been sent on his behalf by the BBC press office and legal department days before he left the organisation. “I didn’t read the contents of the letter.”

Earlier in the hearing the BBC’s former chief technology officer John Linwood, who was sacked in the wake of the DMI disaster, claimed that the fault did not rest with his department. “They’ve tried to pin this on technology to avoid facing up to the truth.”

Read more:
Ian Burrell: 'You might get a good sitcom out of it' – the belated tarnishing of Mark Thompson's BBC career  
Is New York Times boss Mark Thompson the luckiest CEO in the world?
Suspended BBC tech chief who oversaw wasted £100m digital media project will sue his former employer  
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Guru Careers: Creative Designer / Graphic Designer

Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Designer / Graphic Design...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - ECommerce

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers' in retail...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map