Serious breakdowns are increasing at SRF

At the “Mittagstagesschau” after Switzerland’s victory at the European Championships against France, the technology failed several times. The broadcast has disappeared from the archive. screenshot: srf

Serious breakdowns are increasing at SRF

Information contributions cannot be broadcast. The sound doesn’t work. Entire shipments crash. Swiss television cannot cope with new technologies.

Francesco Benini / ch media

Last Friday, the news magazine “10 to 10” reported on the latest serious breakdown at Swisscom. “Embarrassing” was the disruption, it said in the post.

It was embarrassing for Swiss television that “10 to 10” also had to struggle with technical malfunctions that day. There was nothing to be seen on the screens behind the moderator – one looked in vain for suitable images and graphics on the topics. And the fade-ins did not work in the posts. Interviews were conducted – only with whom? The audience did not understand this because neither names nor functions could be seen.

The show was a complete failure. It wasn’t the only one at SRF. “Lunchtime news” after the unexpected victory of the Swiss national football team against France at the European Championship: It starts several minutes late. There is not enough time to get the technical problems under control. The import of the contributions does not work. In the interview with the footballer Granit Xhaka the sound cannot be heard. The moderator is looking into the wrong camera and struggling to maintain his composure. He cancels the program prematurely.

The people in charge at Leutschenbach have now noticed how embarrassing this “lunch show” was. The program has been deleted from the SRF archive. On that date, June 29, only the main edition broadcast in the evening can be found.

The «Tagesschau» starts with a delay of 20 minutes

When the corona crisis broke out in Switzerland in March 2020, people gathered in front of the television in the evenings, just like in the old days, to watch the “Tagesschau”. It’s just stupid that there was nothing new to see one evening at 7.30 p.m. Not even at 7.40 p.m. The “Tagesschau” started 20 minutes late. The moderator justified this with “really big technical problems.”

Other examples could be given. Employees at Leutschenbach say that technical breakdowns are a constant issue. Sometimes they could be fixed just before the airing date so that they would remain hidden from viewers.

Problems are caused by the new editing system Hive from Sony. It leads to different work steps – and leaves some of the affected editors desperate. According to Andreas Lattmann, the “lunch show”, in which everything went wrong, was due to a problem with the Hive system. Lattmann is Chief Technical Officer of the Production & Technology Department of Swiss Television.

If a system bucks, there are version adjustments. At the moment, however, SRF cannot do any. The European Football Championship and the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo have led to a so-called freeze: Version adjustments are currently considered to be too great an operational risk. So it is better to work with the existing errors.

At “10 to 10” there was a short circuit in a computer a week ago. He let both the graphic fade-ins and the monitors behind the presenter fail.

But operational errors also occur: if the Hive system is haunted, there is an “average scenario” at Leutschenbach. That sounds like Titanic. If someone then makes a mistake, no contributions can be imported. And if it does, the sound doesn’t work. The ship is sinking.

The problems worried the employees – SRF appeased

Sometimes the graphics computers also crash. Then the Windows logo can be seen behind the moderator. It is questionable whether Microsoft is happy about this form of free advertising.

What’s going on at the Leutschenbach? Andreas Lattmann says: “There is no accumulation of serious technical breakdowns in the programs on Swiss television.” The causes of the technical malfunctions mentioned were extremely different.

Several SRF employees see it differently. You say: It used to be a sensation when the connection to a foreign correspondent didn’t work. Now whole programs got out of hand. The technical problems would get bigger, not smaller. And: With other publicly financed television stations abroad, such technical difficulties that are visible to the public are not the order of the day.

Lattmann emphasizes that every breakdown is analyzed in detail. Basically, every breakdown is one too many. “But since we work in a high-tech area, breakdowns can never be completely ruled out.”

You wanted to be at the front – and now you’re behind the others

Do the problems have something to do with the IP technology that spreads fear and horror at Leutschenbach? No, there is no connection, emphasizes Andreas Lattmann.

The IP technology is used in the new news and sports center. It should have been put into operation in autumn 2019. Because the IP technology didn’t work, SRF had to postpone the start several times. That costs the broadcaster a lot of money. Those responsible are now planning to start up the center in 2022. There are employees at SRF who doubt whether the plan will work.

Whether IP technology or Hive: It is noticeable that the large, higher-level systems at SRF cause problems. The question arises as to whether television would not have relied on tried and tested applications. SRF wanted to be a technological pioneer – and is now paying a high price for it.

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