TV View: Sky Sports exposed by Leicester helicopter crash

The channel queasily struck names from the list of possible casualties, as if playing bingo

Fans of Leicester City gather to pay their respects after a helicopter carrying five people, including club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, crashed outside the King Power stadium, killing all on board. Video: Reuters

 

There can’t be a weirder television experience than watching Sky Sports News reporting live on a tragic incident, the tone of the coverage not markedly different to what you might find on the channel on transfer deadline day. With a similar dearth of facts. And hours and hours of speculation to fill the gaps.

In fairness, live reporting on tragic incidents isn’t their area of speciality, but still.

“You have to say, can anyone survive that? We’ll keep you posted at Sky Sports News!”

That live rewind button is handy: it allowed viewers to double-check that Rob Dorsett had indeed uttered that line. Alan Partridge might even have thought it a bit doltish.

By then you wouldn’t have been surprised if Rob had located Harry Redknapp to have a chat with him through his rolled-down car window about the night’s horrible events.

Mind you, the news channels weren’t faring much better. That rush to be first with the news, even if the news they share contains not a morsel of truth, is an affliction that shows no sign of abating.

“If it’s confirmed that the Leicester City chairman – and I now understand from reports that the manager might have been on board, too – what does that suggest for the future of the club?” a BBC newsreader, whose name went uncaught, asked a reporter at the ground.

So, not only was she repeating unfounded rumours that Claude Puel was on the helicopter, she was wondering what impact his demise might have on the club. That was sensitive. The only surprise was that she didn’t add: “Will it have an impact on their activity in the January transfer window?”

Twitter journalism

Meanwhile, over on Sky News. “There are some reports from Twitter that this may be the helicopter of the owner,” said the newsreader, confirming that the behemoth of a news organisation now uses Twitter eggs as sources. This is possibly not an ideal development.

Back on SSN, Rob found a fan by the name of John. “As a Leicester City supporter, this is really worrying,” he said to him.

“It’s awful,” said John. “No one wants this, do they? They’ve been vital to our success.”

By now you really wanted SSN to pack up their trucks and go home. But they were there for the whole night, and in between the ceaseless speculating, they were wandering about the place sticking microphones in fans’ faces and asking them how sad/worried they were.

“We don’t want to speculate too much, if at all, about who was on board,” said Rob. “There’ll be next of kin and family and friends worried about loved ones right now.” And then SSN began listing out every person who might possibly have been on the helicopter.

Queasy tummies

Later, Rob allowed us strike two names from the list, like it was a game of bingo: “I do have a crumb of comfort for Leicester City supporters because two people who weren’t on board were Jon Rudkin, the director of football, and Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, the vice-chairman.”

Tummies queasy at this point.

Come morning, Gary Cotterill was on duty for the channel at Leicester’s ground and with nothing at all officially confirmed, he began wondering out loud if the crash was due to pilot error. No, he did, honest.

Then Rob reappeared. “What more do we actually know about what happened?” he was asked. “Very little,” he confessed, so SSN filled some time by interviewing their cameraman Dan, who had filmed the helicopter in flames. “The pictures are disturbing,” we were warned, but they showed them anyway and reminded us, lest we didn’t catch it the first 39 times, that it was Dan their cameraman who had filmed the helicopter in flames.

By mid-afternoon, the only thing we knew for certain was that rolling sports news channels really shouldn’t do live reporting on tragic events.

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