back to article ‘Scapegoated’ BBC tech boss calls foul, kicks off unfair sacking tribunal

The BBC’s former technology chief John Linwood claims he was made a scapegoat for the collapse of the Digital Media Initiative – the corporation’s £125m media sharing and archiving project that was axed a year ago with nothing to show for it. Linwood was placed on gardening leave (on full £287,000 pa pay) as the project was put …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lord Pattern Steps Down

    Chris Pattern stepped down due to heart problems.

    Apparently its pea sized and made of stone.

  2. Getriebe

    Bunch o'luvvies

    BBC is populated, mostly, by a bunch of self serving and networked Oxbridge luvvies who have no idea of projects this large and this complex - allegedly.

    The internecine management/commissioning structure might be useful if you want a bloke in a linen jacket with a scarf wandering over Italy expounding on pre-Etruscan nose fluting, but not keeping controls on a project as big as this with no clear and agreed outcomes. Again allegedly

    No wonder his is going for unfair dismissal. Anyone on that salary and employed to manage such a project should be making risk assessments and making the 'management' forcefully aware every week. If he didn't, he should fry.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Telling it like it is in APT IT and ACTive Media World Affairs

    Of course, Andrew, all of that has nothing at all to do with the fact that competent media broadbandcasters are considerably more powerful than puppet show governments which are ultra dependent upon their being favourably hosted and presented to the masses by such facilitators.

    And those who be considerably better able and enabled to manipulate sublime digital messaging to the masses being therefore deemed too powerful to be in a leading media position and hence the removal of public forum debating boards and smarter intelligence programming from the BBC portfolio and the appointment of unfit for future purpose dinosaurs of another political age and redundant perspective to executive quango office sinecures .... which is the crown and the shame that Lordy Lord Patten wears/wore.

    But keeping the masses dumb and ignorant is a naive and arrogant strategy destined to quick and abject catastrophic failure whenever intelligence confronted is never cowed nor defeated, and those that continue to try and prevent future intelligence progress are simply clearly highlighting themselves for special attention which they will thoroughly deserve .... which be sweet justice in a lawless ordered world.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Telling it like it is in APT IT and ACTive Media World Affairs

      Oh, look, good, ... at least six folk commenting on El Reg who know what be written there is true, and five down voters acknowledging the failure and the need for old views and perspectives to be placed in the trash for that is where all rubbish is designed to go.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet another reason to feel smug about not having paid the television for over 10 years :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well done.

      Mine only shows cooking programs unless I slip it a fiver every couple of weeks.

  5. auburnman

    I've said it before, but I would bet money that the Watchdog didn't get to see the Accenture report because it was lost or deliberately binned - and rightfully so if it's up to the usual Accenture scratch. As for the unfair dismissal, my heart won't bleed for the £287K/annum exec either way, but it does sound like he was made to carry the can and it would be nice if he could rattle some cages at the Beeb.

    The cynic in me wonders however if there will shortly be an out of court settlement (subject to non disclosure so both parties can continue to claim the high ground) that will pay him off and bury the matter.

  6. TopOnePercent

    Almost 300k!!!

    Something is very wrong when public services are paying base salaries of nearly 300k for techies of less than stellar ability (we all have bad management at one time or another but still get the projects delivered and the job done).

    Add on the solid gold pension and you're talking about more than 500k per year. Time that gravy train was shunted into the sidings.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Almost 300k!!!

      "Something is very wrong when public services are paying base salaries of nearly 300k..."

      Previous post appears to have been eaten.

      Inclined to agree, but then I reflect on the banking sector and HFT. They are paid 10x as much for loosing 1000x as much and we are told that the banks have to pay to attract 'world class talent'. Suggest not paying that much for a few years and seeing what happens.

      @TopOnePercent: rest assured that the median public sector salary is a lot (hugely) lower. Around 15K as opposed to UK median of 25k for full time.

      The tramp: 28 years service. 9K pension. Better than many, but lower than this geezer.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't surprise me it failed

    I wasn't involved in this project but I did interview for a C++ dev role with a YouView team based at the BBC a number of years back. From the get go I was bombarded with moronic buzzwords along with endless design pattern questions and other trendy programming paradigms, but very little about low level systems programming and efficiency considerations. Probably why a few years later Alan Sugar kicked a lot of backsides to get a - passably - working system. I wouldn't be surprised if the DMI project was run in the same way at the programming end. And if it was that bad on the shop floor, god knows how bad things must have been at the management level.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't surprise me it failed

      The BBC is awash with buzzwords and acronyms! It's a management lead management heavy organisation triple wrapped in red tape. Its the BBC way or the highway, everyone one is conscious it's watched closely and that's it's biggest problem, every one is scared to fail. Instead of failing fast and moving on as the old 'Agile' buzzword tells us it's a wait then eventual blame game when it finally goes wrong.

      As an organisation it doesn't appreciate people speaking up or support it, it certainly isn't encouraged. To get on it's a case of keep your head down, play the long safe game. Speak up you'll be moved or end up walking with frustration.

      The shop floor are generally passionate and want to do there very best, your best is only the best as the middle management / product owners allow, and if you are scared to take a chance with your product...It's the no one got fired for IBM scenario,

  8. PaulR79

    Something does not quite add up

    The project is said to have wasted £125m and they're saying this guy alone is responsible for £94m of that (coming back to that) so who is being blamed for the other £31m or does that not matter? I mean, £31m is clearly nothing when they're paying someone so much and letting him supposedly blow £94m but who was responsible for losing the rest and how have they been punished?

    Back to the other point. If this one person alone is somehow responsible for £94m of wasted money then who put him in that position and why was he not made to give regular reports? Of course I don't believe one person is responsible for this just as much as I don't believe he's worth his annual salary but if we have to play that game then make it as awkward as possible for the BBC to hide their lies. What a laughing stock the BBC has become. Impartial news is not something I look to the BBC for and haven't for quite a while now.

  9. Alan Denman

    Creative industries are based on trust..

    whilst in big IT contracts Siemens and everyone else hoodwinks you into thinking they actually understand the project.

    Government quangos get mugged for billions time and time again so £125m million is chicken feed.

    The license payer maybe even got off light!

  10. g e

    "refused to let the government watchdog see it"

    Sounds like an FOI opportunity?

  11. Mage Silver badge

    John Linwood

    He is a scapegoat. HE told them it was a disaster that was going nowhere. He was brought in when all the bad decisions had already been made. They were not his.

    DMI (A project for Production) was doomed from the start. Ironically BBC R&D had a better working Archive system ALREADY which could have been extended for Production.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    scrap the license and let this lot work for a living. its a joke that the public pay for the government propaganda machine anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: enough

      >scrap the license and let this lot work for a living. its a joke that the public pay for the government

      >propaganda machine anyway.

      Government propaganda? The BBC is nothing more than the broadcast version of The Guardian. Its liberal left politics appeals to the tiny minority of wooly headed london bein pensants but the sad (or pathetic depending how you want to look at it) thing is they appear to believe they represent the majority view of the UK. I should think the only time most of the broadcasting house staffers ever see the real Britain outside the M25 is looking down on it from a plane out of Heathrow.

      Having said that, they do make good dramas.

  13. hammarbtyp


    And here was I thinking "W1A" was a fictional series. Apparently it was a fly on the wall documentary

    "Lets nail that puppy to the floor"

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there an upper limit on tech salaries then?

    I don't know who is to blame for this project going wrong, but I don't know why so many commentards automatically assume no-one can be worth a £287K salary.

    I don't earn anywhere near that much, but if I was in charge of a £100m+ project I wouldn't think it was unreasonable. It's less than one week of Wayne Rooney's wages.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is there an upper limit on tech salaries then?

      Not at the BBC. DMI was commissioned by Ashley Highfield who earned a humble £466K p.a. and bailed the BBC for Microsoft not long afterward, possibly after realising vision was one thing, execution was something completely different.

  15. The last doughnut


    There! I've coined a new phrase for the teenies.

    We have it here too.

  16. Tom 13

    Four things ought to happen before this all gets settled:

    Fire every member of:

    - the BBC finance committee

    - the BBC executive

    - the BBC Trust

    Release the Accenture report to the public.

    I'll note El Reg's and Marge's notations that Linwood may have been called in too late to be responsible for the fiasco and let others sort out the details on that. I expect that he needs to remain unemployed even if not at fault if for no other reason than there aren't projects there for him to manage.

    I'll also note auburnman's comments about the Accenture report's worth. Be that as it may, the report should still be made public and open to criticism. If it's as bad as he said it is, BBC heads need to roll for commissioning the worthless report in the first place. If they already rolled in items 1 to 3, so much the better.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Four things ought to happen before this all gets settled:


      I've been called a lot of things.

      Also no "may have been called in too late to be responsible". He was called in because out of panic they repatriated it from Siemens. When he analysed it and reported his bosses. stuck their fingers in ears and went "la la la la".

      The actual engineers in BBC also were not just ignored but told to stop being "negative".

      The non-Engineering upper management are responsible. They refused to listen when told.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Four things ought to happen before this all gets settled:

        "The actual engineers in BBC also were not just ignored but told to stop being "negative"."

        9 times out of 10, this is usually the cause of project failures.

  17. david 12 Silver badge

    Scott Adams on ISDN

    Technically it was a good idea....

    "I studied the market for ISDN and calculated all it's costs. I found that it was a great technology with no immediate competition and it probably had a large market potential. The only thing that could limit it's sucess was complete incometence on the part of all phone companies, colossal stupidity by every ISDN hardware vendor, and complete idiocy on the part of the regulatory oversight commities.

    It was obvious ISDN was doomed."

    From when he was an PacBell ISDN employee.

  18. eddacker

    BBC technology department

    I am saddened to see a huge BBC project fail and I have a big, "hey well" once the company Siemens was involved.

    I cannot imagine the duties a CTO has with an operation as vast as the current technical department at BBC must be. Just dealing with other department heads, stakeholders and reports must be worth £200K. I am sure private industry pays their top IT management and security people at least that much.

    Unfortunately there is now the additional expense of the settlement. Aren't people on garden leave supposed to sit quietly and negotiate? best of luck to Mr. Linwood.

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