nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

BBC post-Savile culture change means staff can 'speak truth to power'

'Everyone knew DMI was going wrong but didn’t say anything'

By Kat Hall, 26 May 2016

In the post-Savile BBC era staff won't be punished for "speaking truth to power" – one of the main issues behind the canned £126m Digital Media Initiative, director general of the BBC Tony Hall told MPs.

Appearing in front of a Parliamentary select committee on the BBC’s critical projects, Hall said: "One of the things that struck me most about DMI was that everyone knew it was going wrong but didn’t say anything. Post Savile people won’t be penalised for that. That is a really important big cultural change we are trying to bring about."

The committee was grilling Beeb execs following a National Audit Office report examining the effectiveness of the BBC's arrangements for overseeing critical projects, including changes made following the failure of its DMI.

Since the costly failure of the £126m Digital Media Initiative, the NAO report found the BBC has made improvements to its processes and increased accountability.

However, it found the £75m “agile” MyBBC IT project has evaded scrutiny because managers could make up the benefits as they went along.

The project intends to allow the BBC to collect more accurate data on audiences and provide programmes that reflect their preferences on services such as iPlayer.

Nicholas Prettejohn, trustee and chair of the BBC Trust's Value for Money Committee, acknowledged the project should have had an assessment of benefits much sooner. He said: "Having said that MyBBC was the subject of continuous discussion [in terms of its] benefits and purpose."

He added that MyBBC is an "existential" question for the BBC: "If you look at all retail, media and consumer companies they are all seeking to do what MyBBC is trying to do... to bring a more direct personalised relationship with the customer."

Asked which project kept him awake at night, Prettejohn said: "If I had to pick out one it would have to be MyBBC... because [it is of] such fundamental strategic importance to the future."

Hall said signed-in users on MyBBC consumed 40 per cent of its content, justifying the investment in the scheme as creating better value for taxpayers' TV licence fees.

On the subject of cultural change, Hall said the organisation will ensure that what happened in the Savile period, where DJ and TV personality Jimmy Savile sexually abused hundreds of children with apparent impunity from BBC bosses despite numerous complaints being raised, will never happen again.

"[We want the] culture of organisation so people can speak truth to power," Hall said. "That is much tougher, we are looking at ways in which we can be clearer from what we expect out of managers and teams working with them." ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing