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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Account Executive / Account Manager

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive / Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent