Ian Henderson farewell failure caused by unprecedented technical issues: ABC News chief


Posted

October 12, 2018 12:01:01

The executive editor of ABC News Craig McMurtrie has apologised for the major technical difficulties that plagued last night’s send-off bulletin for veteran newsreader Ian Henderson, which fellow ABC broadcaster Jon Faine has labelled an “epic fail”.

Key points:

  • Last night’s send-off bulletin for Ian Henderson lasted just seven minutes and was plagued by technical issues
  • ABC News executive editor Craig McMurtrie said unprecedented technical issues were the reason for the problems
  • ABC Radio broadcaster Jon Faine described it as an “epic fail” on two fronts

In a grilling interview on ABC Radio Melbourne this morning, McMurtrie said he was very upset and embarrassed by the errors.

It meant the 7PM television news bulletin lasted just seven gremlin-riddled minutes before a feed of the Sydney bulletin hit Victorian viewers’ screens.

After 38 years with the ABC, including a quarter of a century as the face of ABC News Victoria, the bulletin was to be Henderson’s last.

“It was awful. We were all in shock,” McMurtrie said.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to send Hendo off.”

He said the aborted broadcast was caused by unprecedented issues.

“Studio automation systems like the one we use are used by broadcasters all over the world,” he said.

“The techs last night were telling me they’ve not seen a fault like this before.

“It was just one of those things. Terrible timing.”

Henderson agrees to one last broadcast

He said the problems were caused when a network switch crashed, taking down the studio’s IT systems and leaving the studio “completely dead”.

The switch links the local studio to the rest of the network.

“Everybody knew what was at stake, because Ian has been a great colleague and friend to all of us.

“Everybody was desperate to get that studio back up, but unfortunately we couldn’t.

“But he is such a gracious guy, he is a class act, and he’s agreed to come back tonight for his farewell.”

When asked for assurance that the same thing would not happen again tonight, McMurtie said staff were doing everything possible to prevent a repeat situation.

McMurtrie said funding cuts to the ABC had nothing to do with the technical difficulties, and defended the level of IT and technical support in the Melbourne office.

“We do have technical gremlins in other places too, Jon. We do,” he said.

“In the immediate aftermath last night, techs were all over it, IT specialists were immediately available and were on the line, people were going through logs.

“There were meetings last night, through the evening, through til about midnight, and then people stayed back after to get that network switch back online today.”

McMurtrie also apologised for Sydney newsreader Juanita Phillips not informing Victorian viewers what was happening.

“So there was an epic fail technologically and an epic fail in communicating to the audience, who after all are what we are here for, that something had even gone wrong, and that you even knew something had gone wrong,” Faine said.

McMurtrie said the studio was completely dead and they had been hoping and trying to get it back.

“All I can do is say I am embarrassed by what happened, and I apologise to all of our 7PM viewers, because it is certainly not what we wanted last night,” he said.

Henderson will return to the screens tonight at 7PM for one final farewell.

Topics:

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