Sky Digital programme guide – English Premier League – incorrect promo of forthcoming game – Standard A9 – upheld by broadcaster – action taken insufficient
Action taken – explanation and apology – sufficient – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
A live game from the Premier Football League in England is broadcast each Monday at 2.55am on Sky Sports 2. The programme guide screened on Sky Digital at 6.00pm on Sunday 22 April advised that the advertised game would not be broadcast the following morning as the game was not being played.
Mr Darcy complained to Sky Network Television Ltd, the broadcaster, that the guide was incorrect. The game he had been expecting to watch was in fact played, in New Zealand time, at 2.55am on Monday 23 April.
In response, Sky upheld the complaint. It advised that it had misinterpreted its supplier’s advice. It had assumed the advice that no game was being played meant that the game earlier advertised was not being played, rather than that the supplier did not hold the rights to supply the game. Sky apologised for the mistake.
Dissatisfied with Sky’s response to the complaint specifically, and Sky’s coverage of the Premier League generally, Mr Darcy referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the action taken was insufficient.
The Members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the electronic guide containing advice that the game was not being played, and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
It is Sky's regular practice to screen on Sky Sports 2, at 2.55am each Monday morning during the Premier League season, a live soccer game from the English Premier League. The broadcast of the game between Liverpool and Tottenham was scheduled for 2.55am on Monday 23 April 2001. Sky screens on its digital service an electronic programme guide which records the forthcoming programmes on each digital channel. In a statement broadcast on the guide at about 6.00pm on Sunday 22 April, it was stated that the game scheduled for 2.55am on the 23rd would not be broadcast as the game was not being played in England at that time.
Mr Darcy complained to Sky that the announcement was untrue as the game set down to be played at that time took place as scheduled. However, it was not broadcast on Sky Sports 2.
In the correspondence, Mr Darcy voiced some strong criticism about coverage of the Premier League in the past nine years. As Mr Darcy’s comments on this matter raised issues of his preferences as a viewer, rather than matters of broadcasting standards, they have not been addressed by the Authority.
In regard to the specific announcement about the game between Liverpool and Tottenham, Sky advised that it was notified by its supplier that there would be "no Sunday 22nd or Monday 23rd April matches for Week 29". Sky reported that it had assumed that there were no games being played and that information was placed on the programme guide. With hindsight, Sky continued, it should have checked the Internet and found that the Liverpool and Tottenham game was indeed taking place, and that the message meant that the supplier did not hold the rights for that game. Sky apologised for not carrying out that check.
Sky also stated that it was advised only on the Wednesday of each week of the games to be played the following weekend, and thus was not able to print details in "Skywatch" which was printed monthly. It also rejected Mr Darcy’s comments that it regarded the Premier League as a "budget" category of sport.
In his referral to the Authority, Mr Darcy contended that the mistake on this occasion was not a one-off systems failure. Rather, he claimed, it reflected the low priority Sky had given to the Premier League in the past nine years.
In its report to the Authority, Sky repeated the explanation as to why it had given an incorrect reason for a scheduling change. It reiterated the point that it had been unintentional.
In his final comment, Mr Darcy repeated his contention that the mistake arose because of what he described as Sky’s "limited budget" for the English Premier League.
The Authority focuses on the broadcasting standards matter which has been raised by Mr Darcy. The broadcasting standards complaint is that the programme guide screened by Sky advised viewers on Sunday evening 22 April that there would be no Premier League game screening at 2.55am on Monday 23 April because there was no Premier League games being played at that time.
This is a complaint that the broadcast breached standard A9 of the Advanced Code of Broadcasting Practice for Subscription Television. Under this standard, broadcasters are required:
A9 To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.
The Authority accepts that Sky acknowledged that an error occurred when the programme guide was being prepared. The mistake was made because it was assumed that the game was unavailable because it was not taking place, whereas it was later ascertained that the programme was unavailable as the supplier did not hold the rights for the game. There is nothing in the correspondence to lead the Authority to conclude that the mistake arose other from a misinterpretation of the fax from the supplier.
Sky apologised to Mr Darcy for the error. Mr Darcy rejected the explanation, persisting in the view that Sky’s coverage of the Premier League was only "a basic budget package". As the Authority observed above, this is not a broadcasting standards issue.
In summary, a mistake was made in the programme guide. When this error was pointed out by an apparently enthusiastic follower of the Premier League, Sky explained the mistake and apologised for it. This action, in the Authority’s opinion, was appropriate and sufficient and, accordingly, this brings to a conclusion the broadcasting standards issue raised by Mr Darcy.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the action taken by Sky, when upholding a complaint, was insufficient.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 September 2001
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: