ITV News tech failures nearly caused ‘holes’ in live broadcasts


Software problems at ITV News have led to “very narrow escapes” after technology failures came close to leaving gaps in programmes during live broadcasts.

Computer Weekly has learned that issues following an upgrade last year to Avid picture editing software, which was purchased by ITN for its ITV News team for use in creating bulletins and other news-related content, have been so severe they have caused failures during live broadcasts of ITV News programmes, though these were not noticeable on air.

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ITN is a long-term user of Avid, which is used in newsrooms producing broadcasts for ITV News and Channel 4 News, among other programmes.

But when ITV News moved into a refurbished newsroom in May 2023, there was an overhaul of the news editing, storage and publishing system, which produces content for ITV News broadcasts, as well as streaming service ITVX.

Almost a year later, the system is experiencing problems so severe there are still Avid engineers onsite daily to help ITV staff with technical issues, according to sources close to the project. “There have been very narrow escapes from holes appearing on the programmes on air – edit suites and self-edit laptops crashing shortly before [going to] air,” they said.

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When asked for comment regarding these issues, a spokesperson for ITV News said: “We introduced new technology to evolve the way we work at ITV News. As is often the case with any large technology project, there have been some issues that have arisen.

“We are working closely with our key vendors to resolve these issues,” they said. “We are grateful to our teams of journalists across the UK and world who continue to deliver first-class journalism to our audiences.”

Production process

According to documents seen by Computer Weekly, ITV News uses Avid for ingesting content, finding, clipping and moving images, and the production of bulletin pieces in the newsroom, with all materials used for these processes accessible via the cloud.

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Prior to May 2023, production staff used two PCs for separate job functions, but were shifted towards using a single laptop instead.

The initial switchover saw an increase in training and assistance, including “floorwalkers” – ITV staff who have been given the additional task of assisting others with any Avid issues – who are still a presence in the office, along with ITV having daily meetings with Avid to try to solve the ongoing problems.

Soon after this new way of working was introduced in May last year, ITV News began to encounter problems with the part of the system used for “news cutter picture editing”.

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It started with syncing audio and video when producing content, and minor system access issues for the image search and edit software.

Later in the year, the Avid system encountered an issue where content did not appear in the image search and cutting system, forcing producers to revert to their old way of working to edit material.

First priority

ITV News’ problems were labelled “priority one” for Avid, but there is currently no predicted timescale for a fix.

Computer Weekly has learned that in March 2024, the system hit more issues after an Avid update designed to fix the ongoing issues caused further problems, including the system crashing regularly, not being able to search for clips for editing, “media offline” warnings when viewing material on laptops, and trouble creating sequences and shot lists, making it difficult for staff to get content ready for air.

Employees have been advised to continue to report instances of failures, with some producers being given two laptops so that when the issue is encountered on one, an Avid engineer can address it immediately while the producer returns to work on the second.

Sources close to the project claim that in April 2024, several tech failures occurred across all three of ITV News’ main programmes, including editing suites and software crashing shortly before broadcast, although these were not noticeable on air.

Documents seen by Computer Weekly suggest that while Avid is attempting to address the issue, it seems no solution has been reached, and other than ongoing support and workarounds, it’s causing significant difficulties for staff who are trying to continue to do their jobs.

Avid declined to add anything further to ITV’s statement.

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