The BBC Is Considering Suing The UEFA For Lightning Damages

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Yesterday's match was definitely a show and everyone involved is definitely upset, but the BBC is taking it a step further. They're trying to seek damages after thunderstorms knocked out the International feed of Euro 2008 semi-final game between Germany and Turkey....

UEFA today faced compensation claims from broadcasters, including the BBC, following the loss of pictures during last night's thrilling Euro 2008 semi-final.

Millions of football fans around Europe were left shouting at their television sets when a power blackout interrupted TV coverage of the nail-biting match between Germany and Turkey.

The game was midway through the second half with a scoreline of 1-1 when the first of two blackouts, caused by a fierce electrical storm in Vienna, Austria, hit British viewers watching on BBC1.
I don't know how you can sue for damages during an act of God but stranger things have happened. I'm inclined to believe that the World feed went out, but the conspiracy theorist in me is thinking different. When lightning strikes it doesn't tend to just knock out one tower or signal. No power was out in the town and the Swiss feed was still fine. I'm betting some security guard was just sitting on a cord and everytime he moved it went in and out.

In all seriousness, it stunk for everyone involved and it wasn't anyone's fault but God's. So sue God BBC! Actually they're probably doing that too come to think of it.

BBC may seek compensation from UEFA after storms knock out TV coverage during nail-biting Euro 2008 semi-final (Mail Online)

Posted by Awful Announcing- at 10:51 AM

17 Comments:

Honestly, ESPN got what it deserved. That's what it gets for sticking the announcers in a studio in Bristol instead of having them at the stadium. Had they been at the stadium, Rae and Gray could have described the action ala radio until the feed came back. Instead, we were left with drivel and filler from Foudy and Smythe.

MileHigh said...
Jun 26, 2008, 11:57:00 AM  

It's going to be very difficult for any broadcaster to win a suit because of the storm...most contracts have a "force majeure" clause which pretty much state that inability to perform the contract due to acts of God excuse the parties from performance.

Alex said...
Jun 26, 2008, 12:05:00 PM  

Maybe they're suing because UEFA failed to install lightning rods or other methods of preventing blackout due to lightning strikes? I'm just saying that just because it was an act of god doesn't mean someone isn't responsible for the damage caused by it.

e.g., your bank gets flooded, and all your money is washed away because they left it in cash, sitting on the floor in the middle of the bank. They can't say "but it was an act of god!"

Jay said...
Jun 26, 2008, 12:27:00 PM  

@ milehigh

If they were at the game and the television feed got knocked out, wouldn't their audio get knocked out too? When the television feed went out, so did the "natural sounds" from the stadium, leading me to believe they wouldn't be able to be heard either. I guess they could call from a phone...

If someone who has more technical knowledge can correct me, please do...I'm basing this on assumption.

Anyways, I think ESPN's coverage of Euro 2008 has been excellent. I've never been a fan of soccer but after watching these games and listening to these broadcasters, I'm at least a fan of international soccer.

MarkCiz said...
Jun 26, 2008, 12:35:00 PM  

As many of you know, ESPN Classic re-aired the game last night from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

I feel very badly for Derek Rae and Andy Gray, who had to go back to the studio and re-record the whole second half. I missed the original broadcast and would like to know how different the two versions sounded.

Desmond said...
Jun 26, 2008, 12:53:00 PM  

The Swiss feed was fine? Then they have no excuse. They should have just switched to the Swiss feed immediately. Unless UEFA doesn't make the Swiss feed available, in which case why doesn't UEFA make a backup feed available?

The World feed should be transmitted directly from the game site. That way if there's a lightning storm, play's suspended anyway for safety considerations, unless it's being played indoors.

And I never get stories like "a security guard was sitting on it" or "cables were being pulled in and out". The cables shouldn't even be accessible, certainly during the broadcast! Once they're in their proper position, why would they need to be adjusted?

Morgan Wick said...
Jun 26, 2008, 1:04:00 PM  

The problem is a little more complicated and UEFA does feel guilty about it. They've already apologised. The facts are:

- For the first time, UEFA itself acts as host broadcaster. In all previous EURO tournaments, the world feed was produced by TV stations from the host country.

- UEFA has installed an International Broadcasting Centre in Vienna, Austria. TV channels from all over the world are obliged to use the signal that comes from there - except for Swiss TV who have direct cable connections to the stadia in their country. And yesterday's match took place in Basel, Switzerland.

- The thunderstorm over Vienna caused very short-time power outages which forced the whole system to reboot. That's why it took so long to get the signal back on the air.

- All this happened despite UEFA's affirmations that there would be a fully functional emergency power supply for the IBC. For some reason, that didn't work.

- German broadcaster ZDF also considers suing UEFA. One reason why they're so upsed is that the blackout might have averted a new all-time record in viewing figures. Currently, the most watched TV programme of all time in Germany is the 2006 World Cup semifinal GER v ITA with 29.66m viewers. Yesterday's match officially had an average 29.43 million. Without the blackout, the figure would very probably have been higher.

BTW: German viewing figures do not include the 2 million Turks in our country because only foreigners from the EU are counted. And people who watched the game in bars or public places aren't counted either.

spoonman said...
Jun 26, 2008, 2:21:00 PM  

PS: After 5 minutes of blackout, ZDF simply used the Swiss signal - complete with an "SF" logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Obviously, they asked SF for permission. But they probably didn't ask UEFA.

In Austria, the blackout lasted a few minutes longer before Austrian broadcaster ORF also switched to the SF signal.

spoonman said...
Jun 26, 2008, 2:28:00 PM  

Your point is valid but please don't push God on us. There's a reason broadcasters generally ignore all the "I'd like to thank God" speeches following games because not everyone out there is a believer, and I'm willing to bet the majority of those who are believers would not be foolish enough to think an atmospheric event like a lightning strike is a work of God. Please stop showing your ignorance.

Anonymous said...
Jun 26, 2008, 3:25:00 PM  

Ummm it was a joke....."sue God". Come on man.

Jun 26, 2008, 3:31:00 PM  

@ Anon 3:25: Have you never heard of the phrase "act of god?" It doesn't mean that god literally came down and performed said act, nor does the speaker of the phrase actually have to believe in god's existence. It's just a way of saying something happened due to natural, uncontrollable events, like lightning, tornadoes, deer running into the road, etc.

Learn what you're talking about before you get on your soapbox!

Jay said...
Jun 26, 2008, 3:51:00 PM  

I don't know how you can sue for damages during an act of God

--stay away from the Katrina victims

GMoney said...
Jun 26, 2008, 4:11:00 PM  

@desmond

I feel bad for Rae and Gray, too. Hopefully, they will be on the final. But when the first blackout came, they switched it to the studio team, so they didn't broadcast anything originally.

@MarkCiz
You might be right about the audio going out of the stadium, too, but there are many instances where the video feed has been lost, but the audio is fine, though it sounds like the announcers are on the radio. Seen it a lot like that on baseball games. Not saying you're not right, but it's possible (probable?) the audio would have still been working. If I'm reading right, the German broadcast continued from the stadium, just the video feed was switched to the Swiss feed.

MileHigh said...
Jun 26, 2008, 4:51:00 PM  

The German commentator reportedly used a telephone line. Although it didn't sound like that. Perhaps some VOIP thing.

spoonman said...
Jun 26, 2008, 4:58:00 PM  

Had they been at the stadium, Rae and Gray could have described the action ala radio until the feed came back.

I'm not so sure. The BBC's TV team was knocked out too, and they ended up switching to the radio commentators, who were using a different transmission method -- presumably an ISDN line, given that it's the method of choice for live commentary.

Running the show from Bristol obviously has its downsides, but the alternative would be investing the same kind of money as the European broadcasters. (Hence those broadcasters' attempts to seek compensation.)

Since that's not really an option, ESPN did the best they could with a freak occurrence.

holgate said...
Jun 26, 2008, 5:23:00 PM  

UEFA must provide a backup feed.

Anonymous said...
Jun 26, 2008, 5:26:00 PM  

@ milehigh: Shockingly, the announcers doing the finals are Adrian Healey and Andy Gray.

All rise....the case of BBC vs. God is now in session. The honorable Michel Platini is presiding. (or however court cases begin). In all seriousness, what happened sucked but I may actually be the first to commend ESPN for their handling of the situation. They kept us updated on the score and they re-aired the game in its non-technical difficulty entirety twice on ESPN classic last night (with a re-done 2nd half commentary by Rae and Gray).

Anonymous said...
Jun 26, 2008, 10:54:00 PM  

Post a Comment