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BBC execs hunted for dirt on Linwood as COO orchestrated campaign to blame CTO

Edward Qualtrough | Aug. 11, 2014
BBC executives agreed to leave John Linwood 'spinning in the wind' and trawled through material intended to unearth as much dirt on the sacked CTO as they could find, a tribunal said as it ruled Linwood was unfairly dismissed by the broadcaster.

BBC executives agreed to leave John Linwood 'spinning in the wind' and trawled through material intended to unearth as much dirt on the sacked CTO as they could find, a tribunal said as it ruled Linwood was unfairly dismissed by the broadcaster.

As Judge Ms A Stewart ruled in Linwood's favour regarding his dismissal over the failed £100 million Digital Media Initiative project, BBC Director of Operations Dominic Coles was singled out as being the "orchestrator and co-ordinator of the process" charged with getting rid of Linwood, with HR Director of Finance and Operations Richard Burdon one of his main allies.

Judge Stewart's tribunal found: "Although Mr Coles paid lip service to the necessity of 'process' in his internal emails regarding Linwood's disciplinary - a word which, in one email he tellingly placed in inverted commas - the Tribunal formed the view, on the basis of all the evidence before it, that Mr Coles was the designated, or self-designated, continuity 'fixer' charged with getting rid of Linwood, one way or another, timed to coincide with the announcement of the closure of DMI and the substantial write-down, and that Mr Burdon was complicit in this intention."

'Find the culprit'

The tribunal also found that following a meeting of the Trust Finance Committee attended by Chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten, the committee's chairman Sir Anthony Fry wrote to the Director General that "he should advise the Trust as to who from the Executive he considers should be held responsible for the outcome of DMI", which the tribunal described as a "very vivid instruction to 'find the culprit'," prompting Coles to go after Linwood.

In a callous email exchange between Coles and Chief Creative Officer for Vision Pat Younge on May 8 last year following Sir Anthony Fry's letter to find "who should be held responsible", Younge told Coles that: "Linwood can just spin in the wind for now."

The tribunal slammed the "quite extraordinarily unattractive tone and content of the email exchange between Coles and Younge on the evening of May 8".

'Hit him cold'

In another set of correspondence between Coles and HR director Burdon after 10pm on May 13 and early the following morning, the pair practise "rehearsing their script" in which the duo would tell Linwood formal disciplinary action was to be taken against him which could lead to summary dismissal. In one email, Burdon suggested Coles finishes the meeting by saying: "You can see this is being taken extremely seriously and I am determined to ensure the process and any outcome are fair. However, it is clear that the project has failed and where that failure is the responsibility of an individual, appropriate action is taken."

 

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