BBC signs deal with IBM to salvage part of failed digital project

The BBC has signed a £5 million deal with IBM to continue to support and operate its Fabric Archive Database (FAD), which is the only element of its failed Digital Media Initiative that it is attempting to salvage.

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The BBC has signed a £5 million deal with IBM to continue to support and operate its Fabric Archive Database (FAD), which is the only element of its failed Digital Media Initiative that it is attempting to salvage.

It was revealed in May this year that the BBC’s chief technology officer, John Linwood, had been suspended after deciding to abandon the £98 million digital project.

However, the broadcaster has now said that the FAD – a system that allows users to search and request access to the BBC’s archive of tapes and other media – is the “only component of the developed applications that would remain operational”.

The system was developed and built on an IBM product set and the organisation believes that the easiest and cheapest option would be to sign IBM to continue supporting the system for the next three years.

Beyond this point the BBC will decide upon the future of FAD and will explore options for a replacement product.

“The Fabric Archive Database was designed by IBM, developed on and operated on an IBM product set. It is envisaged that the continuity and where necessary, adaptation to future changes of the Fabric Archive Database requires specific knowledge of pre-existing IBM code used on Fabric Archive Database,” said the BBC in a contract notice.

“The BBC believe that IBM are the sole third party with sufficient technical ability and know-how to provide bug fixing and issue resolution, and have the requisite background software rights.

“Alternative options would lead to immense difficulties and delays and would not guarantee the full continuity of the existing temporary solution to the timeliness and extent the system requires, without major inconvenience to the BBC.”

When the BBC announced that its Digital Media Initiative had failed, chief executive Tony Hall said that the organisation had “wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money” and that an independent review would be carried out to find out what went wrong.

The project, dubbed the Digital Media Initiative, saw the BBC attempt to create a digital production system that was aimed at transforming the way staff developed, used and shared video and audio content.