Licence Fee

Commons Savages ‘Complacent’ BBC Trustees over Digital Project

Commons Savages ‘Complacent’ BBC Trustees over Digital Project

The Commons Public Accounts committee has published its final verdict on the BBC’s failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI), which wasted almost £100m of licence fee money.

The project, which was started in 2008 and abandoned last year, was supposed to create the most advanced digital film handling system in the world.

But in a devastating attack on the BBC’s conduct, committee chairman Margaret Hodge says the corporation failed from the Trustees downwards to manage the initiative and also refused to share when asked vital information about how the project was being managed.

The committee has issued a six point list of demands about future BBC management. They amount to a requirement that the  corporation follows the basic ABC of management procedures.

The committee’s report is the latest in a long line of critical investigations into the DMI debacle, including an inquiry by the National Audit Office in January which documented a catalogue of mistakes.

The only usable system delivered by DMI was an archive and ordering system that was slower than the 40-year-old process it was intended to replace, with just 163 staff and a running cost of £3m a year, four times the £780,000 annual cost of its archaic predecessor.

The BBC’s former chief technology officer John Linwood, who paid for the DMI fiasco with his job last summer, is understood to be continuing his legal action against the corporation.

The committee called on the BBC Trust to “set out…what changes it will make to be more proactive in chasing and challenging the BBC executive’s performance in delivering major projects so that it can properly protect the licence fee payers’ interest”.

Mrs Hodge said: “When my Committee examined the DMI’s progress in February 2011, the BBC told us that the DMI was “an absolutely essential have to have” and that a lot of the BBC’s future was tied up in the successful delivery of the DMI.

“The BBC also told us that it was using the DMI to make many programmes and was on track to complete the system in 2011 with no further delays. This turned out not to be the case. In reality the BBC only ever used the DMI to make one programme, called ‘Bang Goes the Theory’.

“The BBC was far too complacent about the high risks involved in taking it in-house. No single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose.”

Photo by break.things

DYKE: ‘BBC should be regulated by OFCOM’

DYKE: ‘BBC should be regulated by OFCOM’

The vultures are circling increasingly around Lord Patten, who has been savaged – and is still under fire – for his handling of a series of problems, including the Savile inquiry and the House of Commons’ prolonged investigation into excessive pay-offs to senior executives.
Latest to join in the attack on the BBC chairman is Greg Dyke, the former BBC director general who was forced to resign in 2004 because he handled the corporation’s response to the Andrew Gilligan-Hutton inquiry ineptly.
It was alleged that instead of being on top of the journalism, and understanding where it had gone wrong, he thought – as those at the BBC so often do – that he could bluster his way through theissues of journalistic integrity that were raised, and rely on the stock BBC response of ‘we know we are right, because what we do is (almost) always right’.
Noticeably, Mr Dyke chose as platform for his ‘Patten is a busted flush’ attack on the BBC’s favourite newspaper, the Guardian.
Noticeably, too, Mr Dyke has called – in effect – for the BBC Trustees to be dissolved, a chairman appointed and future regulation (from the start of the new BBC Charter in 2016) to be allocated to Ofcom.
But would that solve any of the BBC’s problems? The core issue, as News-watch research has repeatedly shown, is that its journalism is not at all ‘independent’, or impartial, but dominated by left of centre thinking. Institutionally, it cannot see this, and refuses obstinately and systematically to countenance otherwise. Or to even discuss the issue, as the Commons EU scrutiny committee has found.
At the same time, Ofcom – a giant Quango set up by the last Labour government that costs £130m a year to run – has been accused by MPs such as Philip Davies of being dominated by bureaucrats who are drawn from exactly the same liberal-left mould as the current BBC Trustees (including Lord Patten). It is headed by Labour-supporter and placeman Ed Richards. Greg Dyke – who himself is a declared left-of-centre activist who supports both the LibDems and Labour – knows this. Perhaps that is why he wants Ofcom to take over.
In reality, it wouldn’t alter a thing about BBC journalism, but would make its control even more bureaucratic and immune from criticism.


BBC ‘Pays double the rate for their taxis’

BBC ‘Pays double the rate for their taxis’

BBC staff have slammed their bosses for paying double the going rate for taxi journeys made at the licence fee payers’ expense.
A story in the Daily Telegraph reveals that the Corporation pays £10m a year for over 350,000 journeys by staff and guests.
To handle this business, the Corporation has a contracted supplier of taxis, which are booked through an internal website. But staff say that the taxi firm is giving a raw deal and charges on occasion almost double the rate of local cab hire companies.
The discrepancy was highlighted in the BBC’s internal magazine Ariel, following a letter from staff member Marc Settle, a project producer at the BBC Academy’s College of Journalism.He said the organisation’s workers are told to book cabs through internal website Gateway, which promises ‘More money for programmes’.He added: “When you book a taxi via Gateway, you’re greeted with a comforting strapline of ‘More money for programmes’.”Is this actually the case? I rang the number on Gateway to get a quote for a journey from Tonbridge in Kent to Gatwick and was told £87.”That seemed high, so I rang a few local companies and, on average, was quoted £45.”Another journey from Stanmore to Heathrow was £61 via Gateway yet a local company quoted just £25.”I know that any receipts which are submitted need then to be processed, and that has a cost. Equally, a central booking system may have merits for auditing purposes.”I would like to know, though, why taxi journeys booked through the central system seem to cost twice as much as those booked locally.”
The article reported that the BBC maintained that costs were higher in order to ensure that taxi firms were ‘legally compliant’ and that drivers were vetted properly.

Photo by [Duncan]