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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.

As Burdon told the tribunal: "We hit him cold."

At the meeting Burdon and Coles had been 'rehearsing', Linwood said that it was not his fault and that "this is a stitch-up".

"I was demoted by George Entwistle, I've not had access to management board or the Exec board and now they are trying to pin this on me," said Linwood.

Coles replied: "No-one is trying to stitch you up, this is a massive failure and as your line manager I expect you to take responsibility for this."

It was after this meeting that Coles and Younge went about gathering potentially negative material about Linwood, which Younge sent to Coles who replied with words such as "indeed", "telling", and "more", with Coles forwarding the emails on to Chief Operating Officer for BBC North Alice Webb.

However, the tribunal found: "In the event surprisingly little was found, and nothing of any real substance, considering that Linwood had been in a senior management position across many projects across the organisation for a period of over four years."


It was while suspended on June 3 that Linwood was told by another senior member at the BBC he was the victim of a "stitch-up". Exiting the building following an initial disciplinary hearing, Linwood said that he met Head of Strategy John Tate, who reported to James Purnell, the Director of Strategy.

Tate asked Linwood how things were, with the response: "Pretty rough."

Tate replied: "Of course it's a stitch-up, but you must have seen this coming. I hope you've got a good lawyer, you've got them frightened."

'Scapegoat punched in the face'

It was then Head of Communications, Gavin Dawson, who said that Linwood both was and wasn't a scapegoat for the project failure, and that the public announcement of the failure of DMI and Linwood's suspension "was meant to be a punch in the face before anyone else can punch you".

At Linwood's appeal to his dismissal in November 2013 conducted by Philip Almond, Dawson said: "A scapegoat, yes arguably, but then again arguably not, he was after all the project sponsor. The newspapers are always going to be after someone. Scapegoat is not the way I would characterise it."

While Linwood was offered some respite by MP Margaret Hodge's finding from the Public Accounts Committee hearing that "no single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose", similar findings are littered throughout the employment tribunal.

It is agreed by both the tribunal and the BBC that with a DMI budget in region of £133 million over a period of approximately six years, DMI accounted for approximately 5% of Linwood's annual budget and 5% of his working time as CTO.


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