Going live: When TV glitches attack

When X Factor fans had to wait a horrifying 15 minutes for their fix, they became part of a chequered television tradition

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The Independent Culture

You can remove drug-addled contestants from talent competitions, but even shows with the biggest budgets can't take technical hitches out of live television . The X Factor has had plenty of challenges to contend with this series, after being overtaken in its ratings battle with the BBC's rival Strictly Come Dancing and having to throw wannabe popstar Frankie Cocozza off the programme for boasting about drug taking. But Saturday night saw it faced with two new problems.

First a glitch at the BT Tower prevented the show from going on air. As millions of viewers waited for the broadcast, a fill-in highlights package was screened. Normal service was resumed 15 minutes later.

Viewers following the official X Factor Twitter feed were told: "The studio is ready and raring to go... but there is a technical failure at BT Tower. Rumour Control: No. Frankie has not taken the producers hostage."

To make matters worse, news articles then appeared on the website of one ITV franchise apparently announcing the results half an hour before the voting hotlines had closed. This error by Scottish franchise STV only led to yet more rumour, this time that the poll to decide who should replace Cocozza – whose place went to Amelia Lily – had been fixed.

In a statement, the Scottish channel said: "The STV web team prepared stories regarding each contestant in anticipation of the result and due to a technical hitch, all four stories went live on our website. We would stress that this was purely a technical hitch and for this we apologise."

Peter Dickson, well known by viewers of the show for his animated voiceovers, told The Independent: "I gather it was a problem with communications as a result of a power failure on a microwave link.

"No doubt there will be an investigation and it will become clear, but it's amazing more shows don't go off air because there are so many aspects to a production of that size that can potentially go wrong. In a live broadcast situation it's always going to be a factor that can be expected... it doesn't happen very often, but when it does it can have quite dramatic consequences."

Despite writing on Twitter on Saturday of "People scrambling all over the studio", Mr Dickson said nobody panicked as they realised it was something over which they had no control.

"Ian Royce, who warms the audience up, was keeping everybody amused and Dermot [O'Leary, the show's presenter] was able to practise his dance routine again, so it was fine."

A man with plenty of experience in dealing with the unexpected elements of live television, Mr Dickson added: "It's like being a sprinter on the starting blocks on your hind legs waiting for the gun to go off... everything is geared towards that on-air time, so when it doesn't happen and you're up to a peak point you just have to try and relax."

It wasn't alright on the night: live TV gaffes

Wogan announces wrong winner in Eurovision (2007)

The climax of the BBC's sing-off to decide which song would represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest was ruined when Terry Wogan told singer Cyndi she had won, only for Fearne Cotton to correct him seconds later, announcing that the group Scooch were the real winners.

The finale of Australia's Next Top Model suffered an equally cringe-worthy incident last year when host Sarah Murdoch, daughter-in-law of media baron Rupert, had to tell a model that she had in fact lost the contest moments after she had made an acceptance speech, after Ms Murdoch had incorrectly declared her the winner.

Rogue advert blocks out Liverpool derby goal (2009)

After 120 minutes of turgid football, Everton snatched a winning goal against Liverpool in the closing minutes of their FA Cup fourth round replay tie – but nobody watching on ITV saw it because an automated system made an advert cut in at the vital moment. The error was repeated in the 2010 World Cup when a commercial interrupted a game between England and the USA.


Status Quo embarrassed by Daybreak CD player (2011)

ITV's breakfast TV offering showed veteran rockers Status Quo miming a live performance of "Rock 'n' Roll 'n You" when the CD skipped and began replaying the start of the song.

Strictly Come Dancing ignores public vote (2008)

The BBC's reality TV competition was thrown into disarray after a public vote for the semi-final was disregarded and all three competing couples were allowed through to the final. Viewers who spent money voting were fuming.


Motor racing excitement spoiled by ad break (2005)

Formula One fans called for ITV to lose its broadcasting rights after adverts interrupted a key duel between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.


Protesters storm National Lottery set (2006)

A £17m jackpot had to be delayed after pressure group Fathers 4 Justice invaded the studio.