Thin-skinned bureaucrats and even thinner-skinned politicians get all huffy about goof-ups that are, in themselves, not such a big deal. But when the public reaction is so out of proportion to the crime, and the issue balloons into a major faux pas, someone has to pay the price.
The Pakistan government ordered the removal of Arshad Khan from the post of managing director of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) subsequent to a major goof-up during prime minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing. For 20 seconds, a live broadcast showed the place line as “Begging” instead of “Beijing.”
Of course, the incident was unfortunate, especially since Khan’s visit was to seek funds. The error couldn’t have been a more ill-timed one. But it would have been much more salutary to just ignore it, or make a joke about it and release the tension, rather than order heads to roll. For one, the managing director is hardly sitting there writing out place lines. Two, several staffers may be shown the door, and they will not get a job again. Already, letters of abject apology to the prime minister’s office have been dispatched.
One needs to take into account that English is not the most widely spoken language in Pakistan, and texting has badly affected language.
Recall how Doordarshan in 2014 sacked an announcer for referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping as Eleven Jinping. While the mistake was absolutely hilarious, no nuclear war broke out.
Indian TV news channels and their anchors massacre the English language on a nightly basis. Their sins of commission are a collector’s dream. A whole movie has been made on anchors across the world trying to pronounce Xi’s first name, with the Chinese leader being referred to as Sisi, DJ and Shill.
Bloopers, unless done with malice, should be simply laughed away. The fact is that we have forgotten how to laugh, or accept that human beings are imperfect. Slips and stumbles of words can have terrible consequences. If all of us can suffer from this problem, why not television journalists?
In captions, subtitles and slugs, the scope for gaffes is immense. Add to this the fast-paced news environment and the mysteries of auto correct, and the results can be hilarious. Reliance on machines and the high pressure of work can all add up to poor speech and writing.
On one occasion, the BBC reported: Prince William and the badgers of Cambridge attended the event. (Instead of badgers, read Duchess).
On ABC covering an election: Heinz, of course, is rubbing against Governor Pat Quinn in the primary. (Instead of rubbing, read running).
Many a news anchor has been sacked for using expletives, and after KSN channel’s Justin Kraemer was removed for just that, he said: I did something extraordinarily unprofessional. It is something drilled into us the minute you start in this business to always consider the microphone hot.”
Even the royals have made such gaffes. On one occasion, Prince Philip ran out of patience at a reception to commemorate the Battle of Britain. Irked over the delay, he yelled, “Oh damn it, take the fucking picture.”