Friday, May 24, 2013

BBC Digital Media Initiative collapses

BBC just announced its tapeless production system has gone into total failure. Insiders tell me that this was bound to happen because the project was so monolithic it should have died on the drawing board in 2006. Wonder whether the review will reflect badly on previous BBC DG and management for losing control over such a beast....

BBC Radio 4 is announcing the same thing as I post this...

The BBC announced today that it is to close its Digital Media Initiative (DMI).
Beginning in 2008, DMI set out to move the BBC's production and archive operations to a fully integrated, digital way of working. The decision to close DMI follows an operational review of the project which was launched in October 2012. The report found that DMI was not going to deliver on its stated objectives and as a result BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, took the decision to close it with the agreement of the BBC Trust. The total cost of DMI to the BBC will be £98.4m.

Following the decision to close the project, the BBC Trust has launched an independent review to establish what went wrong and why.

BBC Director-General Tony 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. I have serious concerns about how we managed this project and the review that has been set up is designed to find out what went wrong and what lessons can be learned. Ambitious technology projects like this always carry a risk of failure, it does not mean we should not attempt them but we have a responsibility to keep them under much greater control than we did here."

The Digital Media Initiative set out to create new digital production tools and link them with a central, digital archive that would allow BBC staff to access a seamless digital chain throughout the production process, from camera to archive. The BBC has worked digitally for some time, DMI aimed to bring those processes together so that everything could be accessed from the same system and stored on a computer.

The individual components of DMI were: new production tools that could be used to create content digitally on a desktop; a store to house the newly created digital content; a database to search BBC archives and a place to store production reports digitally.

A Guardian article earlier in the month revealed the seriousness of the problems and the fact that BBC Sport has come up with their own solution for a fraction of the cost.

A £133m digital video archive designed to ensure the redeveloped New Broadcasting House is "tapeless" is not working according to programme-makers, with old-fashioned tape editing machines having to be installed as a result. However, because the corporation's central London headquarters was not designed to accommodate the heat from the tape editing machines, plans are being discussed to put them in a specially constructed, refrigerated area.
According to sources, Panorama's office in NBH is "littered" with tapes and news and current affairs staff say their work is being held up due to delays and problems with the BBC's troubled Digital Media Initiative. DMI is an attempt by the BBC to do away with video tapes and create and run a kind of internal YouTube of BBC archive content that staff can access, upload, edit and then air from their computers. 
However, only the "first parts" of DMI have been rolled out, the BBC admitted, and staff who are trying to use the software said it is "clunky", patched together with an old system and it is difficult to find much footage on it.
One BBC insider said of DMI: "Not only have there been huge problems with the software, but only a relatively small amount of the BBC's archive has actually been digitised. The vast bulk remains on tape and film."
Problems with DMI were first exposed during the coverage of the death of Baroness Thatcher last month, when BBC News staff were unable to access archive footage of the late prime minister via computers in New Broadcasting House and were reduced to ferrying tapes from the corporation's archive storage facility in Perivale, north-west London, in taxis or on the tube.

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