By Tony Collins
The Public Accounts Committee plans next month to question the BBC’s former Director General Mark Thompson on the failure of the Digital Media Initiative. He left the BBC in 2012 and became CEO of the New York Times Company.
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee, said:
“I look forward to discussing this [DMI] with senior, and former senior, members of the BBC, such as former Director General Mark Thompson, when they come before us on Monday 3rd February at 3.15pm.”
Hodge said today’s National Audit Office memorandum on DMI “reads like a catalogue of how not to run a major programme”. She said she was shocked to learn how poor were the BBC’s governance arrangements for DMI. “There was no Senior Responsible Owner with complete oversight of all aspects of programme’s delivery.”
The report clearly demonstrates why regular reviews are necessary – and why external reviewers should be listened to, said Hodge.
“If the BBC had established clearer accountability and stronger reporting it could have recognised the issues much earlier and set about minimising the astronomic losses for the licence fee payer.
“These failures go right to the top. The executive board applied insufficient scrutiny during 2011 and the first half of 2012. The programme was not subject to any audit or assurance reporting between early 2011 until July 2012.
“The BBC Trust had questioned the executive about slippages in September 2011 but then applied limited challenge until July 2012. After the BBC executive board became aware of the problems it initiated a review in May 2012 of the DMI timetable, costs and benefits.
“The BBC Trust finance committee did not know until July 2012 that the DMI’s risk rating had increased to red for the period October to December 2011.
“The BBC needs to learn from the mistakes it made and ensure that it never again spends such a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money with almost nothing to show for it.”