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ITV wrist-slapped for showing video game as IRA attack

Not fined for YouTube rip and bungled riot coverage

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ITV has escaped a fine for using video game footage to illustrate IRA activities, and portraying the wrong riot, but will tighten up procedures to stop it happening again.

The offending footage was supposed to show the IRA successfully shooting down a British Army helicopter, and was captioned "IRA Film 1988", but actually came from the first-person shooter called Arma 2. ITV accepted the mistake, and said it was an error of process – similar to the one that led to the same programme illustrating the Belfast riot that occurred in July 2011 with scenes from a much earlier outbreak of civil unrest.

Here's how ITV bungled: the video game footage was thought to be an uncut version of film used in an episode of The Cook Report from 1989, and wasn't properly checked as it should have been. The riot footage was supplied by a trusted local historian, but a miscommunication resulted in the wrong footage being shipped.

The process by which video game footage ended up in a broadcast documentary is examined in detail in Ofcom's report [PDF, details start on page 7], but basically ITV had a very short scene from The Cook Report and was delighted to find something better on YouTube. The YouTube video was labelled as real, and it's easy to believe something when it says just what you'd like it to.

Arma 2

That'll cost ITV an Arma and a leg: the video game footage

ITV reckons there was "no watermark or copy protection marked on the internet footage to indicate its source as being a video game" and the failure to check was down to "the pressure [the production team] were under in meeting the deadline for the programme's completion, delivery and broadcast".

So basically they rushed things to get the programme in the can, and got caught out. This time Ofcom has let them off with a slap on the wrist and an assurance that the broadcaster will try harder in future. ®

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