ITV escapes Ofcom rebuke over World Cup advertising gaffe

ITV gaffe: Adrian Chiles, centre, broadcast apology during match
ITV gaffe: Adrian Chiles, centre, broadcast apology during match

ITV has avoided censure from media regulator Ofcom following a gaffe that meant the broadcaster ran an ad over captain Steven Gerrard's opening goal for England versus USA on its ITV1 HD channel.

The game, which was played at the beginning of England’s beleaguered tournament run, was watched by more than 1.5 million viewers on the HD channel.

Despite receiving 823 complaints, Ofcom decided not to sanction ITV1, and accepted that the transmission of the ad was just an "unfortunate error."

The error occurred on 12 June and happened within the first four minutes of the match, at 19:34, just before England scored the first goal.

A 10-second sponsorship bumper for Hyundai was played out on ITV1 HD. This bumper was followed by a series of black frames lasting a further 11 seconds.

The service was restored after approximately 21 seconds, which meant viewers watching the match on the HD service in England and Wales did not see the first goal being scored. Those watching the match on ITV1’s standard definition service – the vast majority of viewers – were unaffected.

Several complainants pointed out that they had paid subscriptions or bought expensive HD televisions in order to watch the World Cup, and expressed frustration that the broadcast had been interrupted at an important point in the match.

In response, ITV said that it deeply regretted the incident and had apologised publicly to its HD viewers. It said it continually strove to offer its viewers a "first class viewing experience", which was why it considered this incident to be all the more unfortunate.

ITV explained that the cause of the incident was a human error within the master control room operated by ITV's transmission provider, Technicolor.

The broadcaster said that a "take-next trigger" had been inadvertently activated, which led to the next scheduled item, a Hyundai sponsorship bumper, being transmitted prematurely.

Following the incident, ITV explained that while it could not identify what led to the human error, it had hired external consultants to critically review its operational procedures with Technicolor, and would be introducing extra precautions to prevent further such incidents.

ITV said that while it considered the incident to be both inopportune and regrettable, it believed the incident to have affected only a minority of its total audience. ITV estimated more than 90% of viewers watched the match on its standard definition service, ITV1, and were therefore unaffected.

Ofcom said that it understood that viewers of this crucial World Cup match would reasonably expect ITV1 to provide appropriate coverage of this event. The regulator said the inclusion of an unscheduled break at a crucial point of the game was "understandably disruptive" and that it appreciated "the frustrations of many viewers who complained" to Ofcom.

The regulator said it had noted ITV’s acknowledgement of this error and that during half-time coverage of the match, an apology was broadcast to viewers by presenter, Adrian Chiles.

Ofcom said that no further action would be taken.

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