Epic gaffe sees wrong phone number shown on TV to millions

Wrong number appears on screen for Lac Mégantic benefit concert

Wrong number appears on screen for Lac Mégantic benefit concert

It was supposed to be one of those feel-good stories. Artists, touched by the tragic events of Lac-Mégantic, gathered for a benefit concert at the Bell Centre earlier this month. The show was recorded and broadcast in the most popular time slot on Quebec television: primetime on Sunday night.

But what made it extra special was that the unity extended to the TV networks as well. Rather than competing with each other, all four conventional French-language television networks — Radio-Canada, TVA, V and Télé-Québec — aired the same program at the same time. If you lived in some of Quebec’s regions with only an antenna for TV service, you had nothing else on TV to watch but this show.

For TVA and Radio-Canada specifically, whose Sunday night wars have both of them reaching millions of Quebec homes (and making television here better as a result), it was particularly touching.

And it all would have gone off great, except for one simple mistake.

The show, produced by Groupe Entourage, was distributed to the broadcasters, and nobody noticed before it went to air that the phone number that appears on screen for the entire show was incorrect. It started with 1-800 when it should have started with 1-866. The 1-800 number that appeared on screen had nothing to do with Lac-Mégantic, and led to a voicemail box.

Host Gino Chouinard posted the correct number on Twitter and people began sharing it. After what I can imagine were some panicked phone calls, the networks started adding tickers to their broadcasts with the correct number. Radio-Canada was the first, followed by TVA and V, and eventually Télé-Québec.

TVA's first ticker makes it clear there's an error here.

TVA’s first ticker makes it clear there’s an error here. It was later replaced with one that just told people to call the new number.

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V’s ticker

1800-tq

Télé-Québec’s ticker

The tickers were rushed onto the screen. Some went over the text already on screen, looking awful. None completely covered up the old number, which must have confused a lot of people.

Despite all this, Entourage said the concert and its broadcast managed to raise $775,000 for the community, including $310,000 from the broadcast, which was watched by 1.9 million people. You can add donations of your own if you haven’t yet. A link to a PayPal page is on the city’s website.

Bravo à V

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Herby Moreau with an unidentified fan

With the four networks showing the same program, there wasn’t much of a way to distinguish them. The folks at V found a way, though. They ditched the commercials and replaced them with behind-the-scenes interviews by Herby Moreau, host of District V. The network might have lost advertising revenue, but it gained a lot in good will.

4 thoughts on “Epic gaffe sees wrong phone number shown on TV to millions

  1. Patrick

    You call a simple mistake an epic gaffe, but in your last picture, you see an unidentified fan with Herby Moreau…. He’s interviewing Quebec’s prime minister!

    Reply
  2. Dilbert

    The epic gaffe here is that apparently nobody knows how to make a simple screen overlay to replace the phone number as it goes over the air. It was in a fixed location, even just basic pixelation and a replacement text on the screen would have done it. Seems like we have reached the era of button pushing monkeys and not actually people who can operate the equipment.

    Oh, and before you go off on me, I understand that the it was distributed by someone else – but each of the stations was able to put up a “it’s wrong” message – can’t any of them put up a simple overlay or pixelate out the mistake? Seems odd!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The epic gaffe here is that apparently nobody knows how to make a simple screen overlay to replace the phone number as it goes over the air.

      Keep in mind this was something that happened at 8:30pm on a Sunday. Plus there was a website address there that they needed to keep because it was working. Frankly I’m surprised all four networks managed to get a ticker on so quickly.

      Reply

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