The BBC has scrapped a multimillion-pound attempt to create an internal digital archive after director-general Tony Hall said the scheme had “wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money”.
The Digital Media Initiative (DMI) has cost the corporation £98.4 million [$184.4 million/USD] since it was started in 2008.
Mr Hall said: “The DMI project has wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money and I saw no reason to allow that to continue which is why I have closed it.
At the heart of DMI’s approach was the strategy to link new digital production tools with a central, digital archive that would allow BBC staff and partners to develop, create, share and manage content digitally, from a desktop. DMI’s digital archive system would help production teams find content from the BBC’s vast archive. In addition, new digital production and desktop tools would help ensure future content and data could be captured, edited and made available at each step of the production process. (This, incidentally, is not to be confused with digitising the existing tape archive, which is a huge undertaking and not part of DMI.)
The contract to deliver the technology solution for DMI was originally awarded to Siemens, and was brought back in-house to the BBC by mutual agreement. In 2012, the first parts of DMI were rolled out across the BBC, including the Fabric Archive Database – a system to allow users to search and request access to the BBC’s archive of tapes and other media. In addition, wide ranging technical infrastructure was installed to underpin the move to a digital, tapeless way of working for the future.
In a letter to Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the BBC Trust’s Anthony Fry revealed the project had generated “little or no assets”.
“It is of utmost concern to us that a project which had already failed to deliver value for money in its early stages has now spent so much more of licence fee payers’ money,” he said.
John Linwood, the BBC’s chief technology officer, has been suspended.