BBC Apologizes to Soccer Boss Over Hezbollah Gaffe

British media giant explains its voice recognition technology mistook 'Villa scarf' with Hezbollah, leading it to associate former Aston Villa chair with terror group.

Aston Villa's Brad Guzan, left, challenging Everton's Romelu Lukaku during a Barclays Premier League match between the two teams at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Nov. 21, 2015.
Reuters

A gaffe left the BBC red-faced after voice recognition technology mistakenly associated the former chairman of Aston Villa with Lebanese Shi'ite terrorist group Hezbollah during a live broadcast, the British media reported on Monday.

The BBC subtitles all of its programs for the deaf, using a method it calls "live respeaking" for live programs such as its soccer show Match of the Day.

When Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson saw Doug Ellis, who now holds the honorary title of Aston Villa's president for life, in the crowd at Goodison Park in late November, he said, “Great to see Doug Ellis here in his Villa scarf.”

However, the subtitling program errantly interpreted the comment as "Great to see Doug Ellis here with Hezbollah," which promptly appeared on the screen.

According to The Guardian, a viewer in Kettering caught the mistake and informed the Radio Times of the gaffe, adding, “Let’s hope he doesn’t sue!”

“The voice recognition technology misrecognized the word ‘Villa’ leading to the error," the BBC announced. "We apologize for any offense caused and are working hard to make subtitles as accurate as they can be.”