Sony Pictures hack blamed for accidental broadcast of expletive-filled movie

When Sony Pictures was hacked last year, one of the primary concerns for the company was the leaking of a number of unreleased movies. But in the UK, there were other consequences, including the daytime broadcast of the movie The Verdict complete with a smattering of four-letter expletives.

Sony Pictures Entertainment's subsidiary company Media Mix Limited owns the TV station Movie Mix, and on 14 December the channel broadcast an edit of the movie peppered with f-bombs. In the middle of the afternoon. The channel's excuse? That the "safe for daytime" broadcast version of the movie had been deleted by hackers.

It is quite common for movies to be cut down into a Suitable Any Time (SAT) version that can be broadcast regardless of the time of day - such as when kids might be watching. To avoid upsetting people, the "watershed" was created. This is designed to stop the broadcast of strong language before 9 pm. Ofcom (the body that regulates TV and radio broadcasts in the UK) investigated a number of complaints about the showing of the uncut version of The Verdict at such an early time and asked for an explanation.

Media Mix Limited said that it shared computer systems with Sony Pictures. It went on to explain that when Sony was hacked, its own scheduling system was also compromised, leading to the deletion of the SAT version of The Verdict. Programming schedules had to be rebuilt manually, and "human error" was blamed for accidentally replacing the deleted 'safe' version of the movie with the uncut version.

The film was recovered from storage in a form expected to be the SAT version. However, it said that unfortunately due to human error, it was in fact the unedited film which included the two instances of the most offensive language which was retrieved and it was this which was broadcast by mistake.

Ofcom decided to uphold complaints against Media Mix Limited, noting that while the security breach had been a factor in the error, it boiled down to avoidable human error - the retrieved version of the movie should have been double-checked for compliance with guidelines.

The full report can be read on the Ofcom website - skip to page 19 for the verdict on The Verdict.

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