Riedel takes responsibility for Eurovision commentary failure

This year's Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) will be remembered as much for the loss of commentary in some countries during the first live semi-final as the surprise win by Azerbaijan, writes Kevin Hilton.
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This year's Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) will be remembered as much for the loss of commentary in some countries during the first live semi-final as the surprise win by Azerbaijan, writes Kevin Hilton. The problem was provisionally traced to a corrupted MADI connection between the integrated commentary and intercom systems. Back-ups were installed for the second semi-final and the final. Commentator feeds to a number of countries, including host nation Germany and Russia went down halfway through the live programme. The German commentator was put on air using a telephone connection until the installed circuits were re-connected. Some of the re-established connections failed again later in the programme, including those carrying the Russian commentary. German manufacturer Riedel supplied the commentary system free of charge to host broadcaster NDR. Comprising CCP-1116 commentary control panels integrated with Riedel's Artist digital matrix intercom, the installation was connected to a Riedel MediorNet signal distribution processing network using MADI. Riedel spokesman Andreas Hilmer says the company is still investigating what happened but the most likely cause was corruption of the MADI interface. "We don't think it was a software issue," he comments. The MADI link was replaced with an AES connection with an analogue output, supported by redundant ISDN codecs for backup. Hilmer acknowledges that while everything else in the audio chain had full redundancy, the commentary system did not. Since the launch of the CCP-1116 observers within the broadcast audio industry have cast doubt on the concept of connecting the commentary and intercom systems. Hilmer rejected the criticism: "This set-up is the way to go, particularly for large-scale events." Riedel accepted that the problems were "definitely in our area of responsibility". Mayah Communications supplied commentary codecs for the ESC between 2006 and 2010 and issued a statement disassociating itself from the problems at this year's event. Glensound has a longer association with the ESC and also emphasised that it was not involved this time. Jon Ola Sand, executive supervisor of the ESC on behalf of the EBU, stated, "We are not happy about this situation. I had meetings with NDR... and we are very confident they can fix it and it will be OK, although with technology one can never be 100 percent certain." There were no problems with commentary during the second semi-final and the final, which saw Ell/Nikki (pictured) win the Contest for Azerbaijan with the song Running Scared. www.eurovision.tv

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