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Scottish referendum: how irritating blogs covered newspapers covering broadcast media covering results

Posted 19th September 2014

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Today, the Guardian posted the following story: Scottish referendum: how broadcast media covered results. Regarding ITV’s coverage, we simply get the following:

“ITV’s Scotland Decides averaged 400,000 and a 5.5% share over the same period.”

This, however, is not how the article read earlier today. The above paragraph originally read as follows:

“ITV’s Scotland Decides averaged 400,000 and a 5.5% share over the same period, also for two simulcast editions – STV’s version for Scottish viewers fronted by Bernard Ponsonby and Aasmah Mir, with ITV News’s programme for the rest of the UK, anchored by Alastair Stewart.”

The problem with the above? The Alastair Stewart programme never actually happened. It was originally scheduled to happen, made it to the TV listings, but at the last minute ITV decided to take STV’s coverage instead.1 (I’d love to know the story as to why it was cancelled so late in the day. Anyone know?)

The problem with this is that it’s not just a easily-made mistake. God knows I make enough of those myself. This is a huge great stonking error – getting ITV’s coverage entirely wrong. If you’re writing an article about how the broadcast media covered results, wouldn’t it be a good idea to, y’know, watch some of it? Clearly the writer of this article didn’t even try to watch any of ITV’s coverage – in fact, in this tweet he admitted he just went by what was in the listings magazines. What right does that person have to write an article about it then, if they couldn’t even switch over to the coverage for five minutes?2

Bonus points though, for writing an article which includes an error that large, but still managing to slag off mistakes by CNN and the BBC at the same time. And if any sentence was begging for me to have made some bloody stupid mistake in this post, it’s that one.

(Incidentally, as a point of order – the article also mentions the BBC had “two simulcast versions” of Scotland Decides, and the original incorrect ITV section also mentions “two simulcast editions”. I’m not convinced that’s what “simulcast” means. The definition I’m using is:

1. A simultaneous transmission of the same programme on radio and television, or on two or more channels: a Radio1/BBC2 simulcast

In the Guardian article, the word is being used to discuss two different programmes broadcast at the same time, not the same programme broadcast on two different channels. I don’t think that counts as a simulcast.)

  1. For the record, ITV network switching from the overnight STV coverage to Good Morning Britain was an absolute bloody shambles. Cut off in the middle of a sentence. Why didn’t STV just give ITV an opt out point at 05:59:40, so ITV could run their ident and get into GMB? 

  2. To give the Guardian credit, the mistake wasn’t just silently corrected – an acknowledgement was given in the comments. I’d rather it was given in the main article itself, but I’ll take what I can get. 

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1 Comment

Jamie on 13 March 2017 @ 12pm

Two and a half years later, in answer to point 1: STV told ITV they were providing an opt out point at 05:59:40 or thereabouts, but the message never got through to the presenter, who carried on talking past it. ITV therefore cut away anyway. The shambles was mostly at STV’s end.

As for point 2: I always think that an acknowledgement in the comments is far, far less good than a note at the foot of the article itself, not least because I only look in the comment sewer in the Grauniad when I’m in a particularly masochistic mood.