back to article £100m DMI omnifail: BBC managers' emails trawled by employment tribunal

The BBC last week stood by its dismissal of former technology chief John Linwood over the failed £100m digital media initiative. The Corporation was judged to have broken the law in dismissing Linwood and reading the tribunal’s findings makes the BBC's defence difficult to accept. According to the BBC, the tribunal “ …

  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Shits.

    Just shits.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shits.

      Love this bit

      "Linwood can just spin in the wind for now.”

      Younge seems like such an arse

      1. Tom 13

        Re: "Linwood can just spin in the wind for now.”

        Yeah, I took note of that too. That's a line that to me says the only response when plaintiff's lawyers sue you is "Yes sir. How many zeros do you want on the check?"

        At this point, I think the best solution is Linwood gets a big check, his record is expunged and he and the BBC part ways. At this point the well is too poisoned for him to work there effectively, even if they replaced all the rest of senior management. And that's assuming he has zero culpability for the failure, a position I don't think any of his defenders have taken.

        Oy vey what a mess. Maybe you should just dissolve the BBC and start over. It might be quicker than trying to clean it up.

  2. Aqua Marina Silver badge
    Joke

    In other news...

    ...The BBC announced today it was dropping the requirement within the organisation to archive emails. A new system of emails older than 30 days being deleted automatically has been introduced. A BBC spokesman said "Removing the burden of long time email archive will free up support time, and reduce the excessive costs associated with unnecessarily storing years worth of emails in a readily searchable way".

    1. a cynic writes...

      Re: In other news...

      Many a true word...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In other news...

      would not be suprised. A company I worked for started deleting emails over a year old after a big financial stink hit it. And no I won't name them.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: In other news...

        At least here stateside SOX has strict requirements on email retention (don't know them off hand). I do know deleting emails inappropriately can pretty much also get a judgment in a case go against you automatically. The exception being the POTUS and his/her administration regardless of party.

        1. Erik4872

          Re: In other news...

          Companies get around this because the rules go something like "you need an email retention policy." I've seen a lot of companies interpret this as "OK, we have a retention policy. No emails will be saved older than 90 days, no backups beyond that time are available." That way, when the lawyers come calling, demanding email discovery, the company can legally say they don't have anything of value to give.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: In other news...

        " A company I worked for started deleting emails over a year old after a big financial stink hit it"

        Which in many countries (including the UK) is illegal if it's got anything to do with financial dealings.

        It doesn't help when people put stuff in folders anyway. A good discovery lawyer will know how to obtain things from mail clients and imap servers.

    3. Tom 13
      Joke

      Re: In other news...

      It's okay. If you need any of those old records, please file your request with the NSA. Once you've signed the appropriate NDA and ISA, they'll be happy to provide you with a completely indexed copy of those messages.

  3. Mike Wilson

    At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

    Got rid of my telly in 2009 and haven't missed it. No license fee needed for Radio 4 which is the only BBC product I consume. The world has changed and the Beeb seems to have not changed with it. They remain a bloated money pit in a world with Netflix & Lovefilm. I like the idea of free to view telly with no advertising, but not run like this.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

      They have changed.

      30 to 20 years ago they produced good Radio & Telly, did their own engineering (Comms, & IT etc). Now it is all dumbed down, outsourced and agenda driven (Climate Change, Reality TV, LGBT, junk popular "science" (Wifi Headaches etc) etc all driving decisions).

      Netflix, Lovefilm and Internet isn't the problem or solution, The issues are CONTENT (too little) and MANAGEMENT (too many). Both are garbage.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: junk popular "science" (Wifi Headaches etc)

        We remember the past more fondly than it actually was. After Nimoy's stint on Star Trek ended, his next big show was In Search of which pursued exactly the same sorts of junk science only more so: ufos, alien abduction, Bigfoot, and even a couple trips to Ole Blighty looking for Nessie.

    2. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

      "Got rid of my telly in 2009 and haven't missed it."

      I've never owned a broadcast television.

      Be aware though that a computer with a broadband connection is classed as 'television receiving apparatus', so I do now pay for a television licence. I did write to my MP about this some years ago. There was some uncertaintly about the exact situation but I decided not to risk possible fine or visits.

      1. david bates

        Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

        No it isn't.

        Neither do you need a license to own a TV.

        You need a licesence to watch broadcast TV or to stream media 'as live' (ie as its being broadcast). Catch-up TV in its various forms is fine.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: UK TV Licence

          "You need a licesence to watch broadcast TV or to stream media 'as live' (ie as its being broadcast). Catch-up TV in its various forms is fine."

          In the UK. In some other countries with a TV licence the rules are more restrictive, simply having any receiving device (even if broken or no aerial or can't do Digital) (i.e. VHS) makes you liable. The UK is more enlightened than some! Having no TV licence doesn't seem to work too well for some countries judging by quality, but don't worry, the BBC is doing its best to make a case to abolish TV licence. Careful what you wish for. TV licence does pay for BBC Radio and some good TV content, still.

        2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

          "Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

          No it isn't.

          Neither do you need a license to own a TV.

          You need a licesence to watch broadcast TV or to stream media 'as live' (ie as its being broadcast). Catch-up TV in its various forms is crap."

          FTFY.

          1. Scorchio!!

            Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

            @ I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects. Yup, that's what I heard! The new head man says he wants to levy all our internet accounts to raise finance for the Peeb. Frankly I think he should look in his coffee, because it's clearly been spiked.

      2. Phil W

        Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

        Indeed, as above, a TV licence is only required to watch TV as it is broadcast (or record it yourself). Watching them on iPlayer post broadcast doesn't require a TV licence, though using iPlayer to watch the few things they show live on there does.

        If you own a TV but dont have it connected to receive live broadcasts then the TV licencing agency will send you a letter acknowledging that if you write to them about it.

      3. Scorchio!!

        Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

        @keithpeter. It is my understanding that problems only arise when users watch programmes that are simultaneously being broadcast, for the first time. True, the Peeb wanted to levy all internet accounts as a source of income, but they are likely to find themselves cut rather than inflated any more. Their behaviour over the past nearly 20 years has seen to that.

    3. plrndl

      Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

      "I like the idea of free to view telly with no advertising..."

      The BBC carries a vast amount of advertising, mostly for BBC channels and products, but none of it is paid for, and its commercial activities are so badly run and overstaffed that the make very litle money.

      Incidentally the last time I listened to BBC Radio London, the most commonly heard phrase was "sponsored by HMV".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: At least it's not my money these buffoons are burning

        > "I like the idea of free to view telly with no advertising..."

        So do I, I like the BBC and I didn't mind paying the fee but now that I'm moving back home (abroad) and called tvlicensing to cancel my quarterly payments from end of this month, I was told I wouldn't get a refund for the two months I've paid for and am not going to use and I cannot cancel now, I can only cancel up to two weeks prior to my leaving.

        Not refunding the two months is pretty cheeky I find.

        Not allowing me to cancel now I guess is just in the hopes that I will forget to tell them later and then they can try to continue with the direct debit. Or perhaps when I call 1.5 weeks in advance they'll tell me that I should have called exactly two weeks in advance and I'll be liable to pay for another three months now. Bastards.

    4. NeilPost

      Politicians are to blame, not the BBC.

      Although not a perfect organisation, the BBC is currently in the hole due to the actions of politicians and their inability to leave it alone.

      Unnecessary organisational and giovernance changes like BBC Board of Governors to BBC Trust, forced upon financial settlements, historical abuse issues (same ballpark as NHS, Prisons, Parliament, Social Services), forced upon new obligations (with huge cuts in money to pay for it) like World Service changes, swathing cuts in staffing, forced staff and relocation changes (BBC TV Centre to Salford Quays, Manchester and Pacific Quay, Glasgow) and much production to Cardiff), whilst selling TV centre with one hand yet building up a new London HQ in Broadcasting House at vast cost.............. are all to blame. Sometimes, you must thing the management's head's must be spinning with so much parallel forced changes. Politicians need to keep their meddling hands out of the BBC - Jowell, Purnell, Burnham, Bradshaw, Hunt, Millar, Javid.....

      The British Public want Jeremy Paxman for the next BBC Trust Chairman.

      ... Though looking at the Leveson Enquiry, at least the BBC Exec's don't have a systematic dose of Murdoch/Brookes and "can't remember" anything of any importance, and thoroughly absolve themselves of any executive responsibility for anything.

      1. rhydian

        Re: Politicians are to blame, not the BBC.

        "

        Unnecessary organisational and giovernance changes like BBC Board of Governors to BBC Trust, forced upon financial settlements, historical abuse issues (same ballpark as NHS, Prisons, Parliament, Social Services), forced upon new obligations (with huge cuts in money to pay for it) like World Service changes, swathing cuts in staffing, forced staff and relocation changes (BBC TV Centre to Salford Quays, Manchester and Pacific Quay, Glasgow) and much production to Cardiff), whilst selling TV centre with one hand yet building up a new London HQ in Broadcasting House at vast cost.............. are all to blame. Sometimes, you must thing the management's head's must be spinning with so much parallel forced changes. Politicians need to keep their meddling hands out of the BBC - Jowell, Purnell, Burnham, Bradshaw, Hunt, Millar, Javid....."

        The fact is the BBC is a "tax" funded operation (even if it is called a "licence") and therefore will come under scrutiny and pressure from the government of the day.

        Some of the changes (like DMI) were a shambles, but I don't agree that moving BBC services out of London was one of them. Yes the BBC needs a London presence, but for things like production and studio areas you do not need to be London based. TV Centre is an old, outdated building and refurbishing it would probably have cost even more than moving out.

        It was however a lot of fun hearing meeja types complaining that Manchester was pretty much the middle of nowhere. Its a few hours on a train FFS.

        1. plrndl

          Re: Politicians are to blame, not the BBC.

          "but for things like production and studio areas you do not need to be London based."

          "Manchester... Its a few hours on a train "

          Not everyone who works in production and studio areas is a full time BBC employee. Most producers, engineers and actors are freelance professionals who work for a range of clients and are based in London, where the vast majority of facilites and work are also based.

          How would you like the cost and aggravation of a 4-hour plus round journey commute, possibly carrying bulky and/or expensive equipment?

          (Former freelance recording engineer.)

  4. Ian 45

    Public money

    Its what happens when organisations get money regardless of how they perform. Layer upon layer of idiots each trying to deflect responsibility. The BBC is not fit for purpose and should be sold off.

    1. Credas Silver badge

      Re: Public money

      You think it's any different in large private sector corporations? It isn't - back-stabbing executive shits abound there too.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Public money

        "You think it's any different in large private sector corporations?"

        To an extent, yes. The BBC is public sector, it has a tax-funded ethos of easy come, easy go. I'd agree there are back stabbing shits in a good proportion of commercial businesses, but I have a choice of whether to support the business based on what it does for me. In most commercial businesses pissing £100m up the wall for no useful output would actually endanger the future of the business, and probably result in a complete change of both board and IT management.

        Based on the performance over the past five years I've paid the fat end of £400 for nine episodes of Sherlock, a few news and weather bulletins, and quite a few hours of vile politically correct kiddy TV for my offspring, whilst the BBC continue to spew out cheap, neuron-neutralising pap like Antiques Roadshow, or repetitive formula crud like Masterchef. Or they rely on past glories like Dads Army, or even re-runs of once-funny but long, long-since-out-of-gas content like Only Fools & Horses, or nearly endless remakes of Dr Who. Buggers should have taken a few years off after David Tennant. And then there's the whole quality-destroying mess of BBC Worldwide, that managed to shit all over potentially attractive themes like Torchwood. And what about costume drama for the skirt wearers amongst us? That used to be a BBC crown jewel, now reduced to gloomy mumbling in infrequent outings.

        Useless, uncreative bastards. Sack 'em all.

        1. Anonymous Coward 101

          Re: Public money

          "In most commercial businesses pissing £100m up the wall for no useful output would actually endanger the future of the business, and probably result in a complete change of both board and IT management."

          LOL

          1. Mage Silver badge

            Re: Public money

            Needs reformed.

            Sell it off and you have another Channel Five.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Public money

            "LOL"

            Certainly if you're big enough some businesses will permit that for the chosen few, particularly in "risk led" businesses like oil E&P and film making (PSB doesn't count, in my book). But I work for circa £10bn a year turnover business. Some fucker didn't do his job, and cost us £10m, a whole 0.1% of turnover. Here today, gone tomorrow, along with his lieutenants. The UK CEO has been told if it happens again he's out, and all of the directors (most of whom were not responsible) have had their bonuses capped at 50% of what they'd otherwise have earned.

            If it had been £100m that's been lost, I can assure you (since I move in circles to know) that the entire UK board would have gone, along with anybody remotely associated with the disaster. Meanwhile, over at BBC Towers the clowns have a tribunal find against them, and still they won't accept that their management did this collectively. That is the sort of attitude that has brought the BBC to where it is today, that is why it isn't going to change, and that's why it has to lose the licence fee. The good bits of the BBC will always have an audience willing to pay (or endure adverts). The other two thirds need to go and get a job in road sweeping, or something equally suited to their talents.

        2. keithpeter
          Windows

          Re: Public money

          "In most commercial businesses pissing £100m up the wall for no useful output would actually endanger the future of the business, and probably result in a complete change of both board and IT management."

          Or the hiring of gifted accountants who could associate a book value with what deliverables there were at the end of the project.

          [I neither agree or disagree with your perception of the quality of the output of the BBC as I do not own a television receiver (see posts further up screen).]

        3. Ho Ho Hipster

          Re: Public money

          "Based on the performance over the past five years I've paid the fat end of £400 for <mostly stuff you don't want>"

          You seem to be an unwise spender, who would rather blame the BBC than yourself.

          1. NeilPost

            Re: Public money

            ... wheras a basic Sky subscription woul be the fat end of £1,000 or so, but at least the £400 complainer could contain themself watching Hannity on Fox News.

        4. Ho Ho Hipster

          Re: Public money

          "In most commercial businesses pissing £100m up the wall for no useful output"

          Facebook? Instagram?

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Public money

          Not bad for about 100 a year.

          Otherwise you are at the mercy of owners own political views of commercial TV. You think it is empty TV. But they are trying to cater for about 50 million viewers so you can't have it all your own way

        6. Scorchio!!

          Re: Public money

          @ Ledswinger. The problem took off with a vengeance in 1997, when the Labour party took office and began to inflate the public sector at the expense of both tax payers and the private sector. With Dyke in place - in spite of his confrontations with the Labour party in government - the new policies were expansionist and wasteful. There was no longer any need to concentrate on quality, and so they concentrated on width. Thus, instead of generating good programming with genuinely talented actors and other 'artists', the Peeb gave us very expensive chat show hosts, vulgar phone calls to older actor's daughters, fixed game shows, footage edited to make it seem that the monarch had flounced out in a temper, and much, much more besides.

          The Peeb will take a long time to recover, and probably one of the best ways to assist them in pursuit of quality rather than quantity is to cut their income. This began with the process of integrating the separately financed World Service into the main Peeb, thus making them entirely responsible for the new arm's budget, in the same way that Broon made the MoD pay for Labour's wars rather than using the contingency reserve. An utterly brilliant mirror stroke to the wasteful Labour years, for which we will probably pay for more than two decades.

        7. NeilPost

          Re: Public money

          It's a bit of a rhetoric supporting cherry picked history, but ultimately what is behind the decade or so of change at the BBC, the last Labour and current conDem governments, with agenda-pursuing Culture Secretaries at the DCMS - Board of Governors to Trust, forced financial settlements, organisational and reloacation changes (BBt TV Centre/Manchester/Cardiff/Pacific Quay Glasgow)

          Like the NHS, if they just left the damn thing alone................. Jeremy Paxman for next BBC Trust Chairman please, not a giovernment Toady like Coe.

      2. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Public money

        So true. In a word: banks

    2. NeilPost

      Re: Public money

      .. what and bring on Fox News ?

      1. rhydian

        @NeilPost

        ".. what and bring on Fox News ?"

        C4 news isn't publicly funded, and they are as far away from Fox News as your likely to get.

        Public funding/ownership does not guarantee impartiality, it merely ensures partiality towards the govt of the day.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Public money

      First time I read that I read "lawyers upon the lawyers of idiots" which I suppose is pretty much the same difference.

  5. Andy E
    Flame

    Despicable management.

    This article should be given to people who are considering applying for a job at the BBC. I don't understand why senior management involved have not been terminated.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Despicable management.

      " I don't understand why senior management involved have not been terminated."

      With extreme prejudice?

      Many years ago I worked for a few months with a guy who had the contract for laying and repairing carpets at Bush House and Broadcasting House, although pre-IT the atmosphere was just the same; everybody jostling for position when the going was good or laying off the blame where there were problems, Oh and social and Corporation status was everything, in my case being in trouble for not getting the current entitlement to the correct quality and colour of carpet for them .

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. IDoNotThinkSo
          Flame

          Re: Despicable management.

          The PA was there to discover the booby trap. A security guard should know that.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Knife Sharpeners

    And we all thought those knife sharpeners the BBC bought in 2013 were for a new series of cookery programmes............

  7. Tom 35 Silver badge

    congratulations on your promotion to captain.

    I have demoted my self to lifeboat operator so I'll be off...

  8. Mage Silver badge

    I worked in BBC in 1970s

    I'd not touch them with a barge pole now unless there is a clean sweep of management. There needs to be about 1/4 as many and people that care about Content quality, Engineering Quality and what the viewer and listener needs (not what an agency, focus group or poll identifies ... That route leads to mediocrity and a poor copy of US Commercial TV).

    BBC management only care about themselves and viewing figures.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: I worked in BBC in 1970s

      The joke is - you can lay all the blame on an engineer: John Birt.

      The man who introduced 'Producer Choice' and all the idiocy that it brought with it, like external companies making programs using BBC staff, premises, and equipment for less than the BBC could do it, or people having meetings in the hotel across the road because the room hourly rate was cheaper.

      Idiot.

  9. frank ly Silver badge

    Use of technology

    "Linwood claimed he was given a choice of resigning or going through a disciplinary process and facing dismissal. Coles and Burdon denied this."

    A small, good quaity audio recording device in your jacket top pocket would be useful in some situations.

    1. Neil 8

      Re: Use of technology

      The recording would be inadmissible in a tribunal/court unfortunately.

      Although, recording it for your own use is legal, AFAIK.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Use of technology

        "The recording would be inadmissible in a tribunal/court unfortunately."

        If introduced directly, that's true.

        A transcript of the recording IS admissible and then the recording can be introduced as backing evidence if the transcript is disputed - ie, the only way for the opposing party to avoid having the recording introduced as evidence is to accept the transcript.

        Seems a bit odd, but that's the way it is in the UK for one party recordings.

        If everyone's aware there's a recording taking place then the recording is directly admissible.

        FWIW, in the absence of recordings, the first person to file a record of meeting minutes is legally assumed to be accurate unless that account is disputed - and even with a recording the recording has to be used as evidence for a dispute

        One company I worked for (a govt operated radio station...) had a manager who would take advantage of this by agreeing to everything in meetings, then bash out a memo stating her version of events - which usually had no relationship at all to what had actually taken place.

        It proved extremely hard to sack her as the only way to defend against this kind of thing is for everyone else involved to immediately dispute the version of events or a recording to be produced.

        People like this are the ones who go from job to job with glowing reviews and a golden handshake as it's usually the only way to get them out the door.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Use of technology

          > If everyone's aware there's a recording taking place then the recording is directly admissible.

          This comes in handy when you phone a company to complain and you get the "This call may be recorded for quality or training purposes".

          That means that you can legally record the conversation without informing the other person and it can be used directly as evidence.

    2. ZillaOfManilla

      Re: Use of technology

      iPhone? Although can you use evidence if you haven't warned people you are recording them?

  10. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Reading the evidence

    I'd say he was more or less hired with the specific intent of being thrown under the bus as BBC management realised the project was a clusterfuck and they needed a plausible exit strategy which wouldn't result in them being in the firing line.

    Unfortunately for them, he decided he wasn't going to be their Patsy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Only one man caused the failure of the £100m digital media initiative?

    I'd say most of the key people knew it was doomed, but were scared of saying so, as the first one to say so gets saddled with the blame. I would also hazard the opinion that there was a culture at the BBC of management making unrealistic demands of the technical staff and not wanting to know the technical issued involved. Have they considered asking Netflix to handle the project.

    --

    'While this answer functioned, it was obviously fundamentally flawed, thus creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly, that if left unchecked might threaten the system itself`

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: Only one man caused the failure of the £100m digital media initiative?

      > I'd say most of the key people knew it was doomed, but were scared of saying so

      Actually it can't be that flat faced. A decent management committee would have been a shout fest years before the shit got anywhere near a fan. Thet's the whole point of management. Why do the BBC think onlookers can't see that?

      There would have been lots of stories about chairs hitting walls and all sorts of acrimonious leaks to the press -even one or two stabbings, what else is failing badly?

    2. SundogUK

      Re: Only one man caused the failure of the £100m digital media initiative?

      I know someone who worked on this project (in project management) and he said he knew within a week that it was going to be a disaster. As did all the external consultants - they could never get a straight answer from the BBC management about anything.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    9 years of email archives

    Must leave a powerful web / trail of various piss poor behaviour. Given they've been using the market-leading Gardner MQ winning product for years means there's loads of skeletons about....

    That is unless they've just changed archive retention policies but were they still storing on devices like an EMC Centera they might find those archives particularly nasty to get rid of. It takes months to longer to purge archives, unless someone conveniently destroys all the indexes

    Let the eDicsovery papers fly fast-n-furious.

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