October 17, 2013 7:51 pm

Thompson called to account for BBC digital failure

Mark Thompson, the former BBC director-general, has been summoned to appear before MPs in a probe of the broadcaster’s aborted digital media initiative that squandered almost £100m of licence fee payer money.

The investigation puts Mr Thompson, now chief executive of the New York Times, under fresh scrutiny only a month after he was last called before MPs to answer questions about his involvement in severance payouts to departing BBC managers.

The digital media initiative, a five-year technology project to give employees access to the broadcast’s entire content archive, was scrapped in May writing off almost £100m that had been spent already.

The UK Public Accounts Committee said in a report published on Wednesday that it was “dismayed at the failure of the digital media initiative project and allegations we may have been misled about its progress”.

Over the past year, Mr Thompson has faced repeated questions about his conduct at the BBC. Just before he started at the New York Times last November he was grilled about his knowledge of Jimmy Savile sex abuse allegations.

However, although an independent review of the BBC’s decision to scrap a documentary investigation of Savile painted a picture of “chaos and confusion” at the broadcaster, it did not make negative comment on the conduct of Mr Thompson.

The latest controversy over the digital media initiative comes at a sensitive time for the BBC, which next year will start negotiating its funding from 2017.

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