WITH millions of viewers glued to the screen, a major football match on prime-time television is one of the worst possible times to make a mistake.
However, it seems one of the country’s leading broadcasters is making a habit of doing just that.
Football fans watching last night’s tense Champions League semi-final on ITV HD were left baffled when cameras cut from extra time to footage of a newsreader doing up his jacket.
Instead of watching Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, viewers saw Mark Austin preparing for his delayed headlines, fiddling with his buttons and staring into the middle distance.
A spokesman for ITV confirmed there had been a technical fault, which resulted in a “brief break in transmission” in the 98th minute. Coverage was restored after 30 seconds, and viewers were able to watch the penalty shoot-out, in which Bayern advanced to the final.
The channel has suffered other unexpected interruptions during important games. In February 2009, Michael Grade, ITV’s former executive chairman, confessed to a “shambles on air” after an FA Cup clash between Everton and Liverpool cut to a Tic-Tac advert just as Everton scored an extra-time winner .
In June 2010, ITV HD viewers missed Steven Gerrard’s goal for England in the World Cup match against the USA when the live coverage was interrupted by a Hyundai commercial.
Last night viewers took to Twitter to comment on the latest error, with Austin himself writing: “Busy night in so many ways.” He later added: “Button tending is an underrated habit.”
ITV news editor Kier Simmons tweeted a picture of the newsreader, saying: “Mark Austin on phone reading tweets about his unexpected appearance on ITV HD”
An ITV spokesman said commentators had offered an immediate on-air apology. He added it had affected viewers in the London and Meridian regions of south-east England, but could not yet identify the fault in transmission.
He said: “A technical fault during the first period of extra-time in the Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich resulted in a brief break in transmission for some HD viewers in the south-east of England. We would like to apologise.”