Follow TV Tropes


We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Go To

In real life, when a broadcaster is having technical difficulties, often with transmitting equipment or loss of video/audio feed, the station will put on screen a card stating "We are having technical difficulties" or "Please Stand By", accompanied by stock music. This is rare nowadays in most countries, but the practice is still referred to in fiction.

However, when this happens in fiction, it indicates not mundane malfunctions, but something either funny or deeply disturbing. And the latter usually happens when the news is being aired, or in the newsroom itself.

Sometimes played for Black Comedy if the presentation of the message sharply contrasts with the horror of the scene. An even darker version is when the message is displayed, but the horrible noise in the background indicates what is actually going on. It may also happen if the Genre Blind Red Shirt Reporter tries to get an exclusive interview with the Eldritch Abomination.


There may be other not-really-technical difficulties such as a fight breaking out on live TV or a performer (or news anchor) having an emotional breakdown, disrobing on live TV, dying, or saying something so controversial that it will cause backlash from the network censors or, worse, the FCC (and their national equivalents abroad). Actual technical difficulties are vanishingly rare in fictionland, and thanks to many stations now being run by their corporate owners from one hub (for instance, Fox runs many of their owned stations from New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston), in reality also. Sometimes the message pops up as a result of Camera Abuse, which could be a valid case of technical difficulty.

Can be used similarly to News Monopoly — if every station is Experiencing Technical Difficulties at the same time, something is seriously wrong.


Compare with Relax-o-Vision (an innocuous image is substituted for a disturbing one), Do Not Adjust Your Set (an outside intrusion overrides the signal), and Snowy Screen of Death (damage to the camera causes the signal to flicker out and die).

Often, "Spanish Flea" from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass will appear as background music in this trope, or an instrumental recording of "The Girl From Ipanema," which also also shows up in elevators. Sometimes the Intermission song from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is used as well, particularly among video game streamers or in Web Original works where copyright isn't as much of an issue.


    open/close all folders 

  • One ad for fast food chain Jack in the Box's "Jack vs Martha Stewart" series has Jack confront Martha in her own studio. Martha comes over and ends up grabbing Jack's nose clean off. The shock from both parties leads to color bars accompanied by Martha shrugging, with the text "Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By".

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one episode of Death Note, the cult of Kira is being broadcast live worshipping him. Since they are presented as basically a scam, Mikami uses his death note to kill all of them. After their gruesome heart attacks, the screen changes to a "cutesy" "be-right-back" message.
  • The anime version of Pesche drawing his sword in Bleach culminated with an angry Pesche declaring his "thing" was much bigger and better than Ishida's. Mid-rant, the video cut to a title screen with a puppet telling the audience not to act like Pesche.
  • The Castle of Cagliostro: This happens to the broadcast of the Count's wedding, courtesy of some of his Elite Mooks, after Lupin starts disrupting things. Unlike most such examples, the broadcast is soon restored because the newscaster so happens to be Fujiko, who is quite capable of defeating them.
  • One-Punch Man uses this after Saitama mistakenly pulls a Groin Attack on someone.

    Comic Books 
  • In Tintin and the Picaros, San Theodoran television shows a Kangaroo Court sentencing Castafiore to life imprisonment, at which point she starts to sing an aria. It quickly cuts to a "PLEASE EXCUSE THIS INTERRUPTION" message, followed by a cartoon interlude.
  • Used in The Sandman when Dr. Destiny makes the world go crazy and a kids show host encourages children to commit suicide.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Osmosis Jones, during the meltdown in Frank's body, when the two news anchors start arguing and beating each other up, we get "PLEASE STAND BY". We don't see them again until all the danger's clear.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Shaun of the Dead features a sequence where a character flips through the channels and sees nothing but Technical Difficulty screens, even on the satellite channels which normally only stop working due to bad weather affecting the signal (such as the Discovery Channel).
  • Romero's Living Dead Series films:
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch:
    • This ultimately happens on every single channel shown by Clamp Cable as the titular critters wreak havoc throughout the building. Bonus points because the technical difficulties title card bear the image of a grinning gremlin.
    • Even better when Clamp authorizes the "Final Broadcast" where a peaceful female voice over images of nature scenes and wildlife says, "Due to the end of civilization as we know it the Clamp Cable Network is now ceasing transmission." This is a parody of an Urban Legend that CNN has a tape narrated by Ted Turner over nature scenery ready to roll to close out world history just in case of global annihilation. In 2001, the New York Daily News reported that CNN does have a tape prepared for an end-of-the-world scenario, but it consists of a recording of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" over footage of a waving American flag. No nature footage.
  • The original Godzilla (1954) has this when a radio newsreader is killed. Interestingly, we see the scene from his perspective. He keeps on reporting on the situation even as Godzilla is bringing down the tower he's standing on, fully realizing he's about to be killed, and announcing this fact to his listeners.
  • A humorous example in the film I Am Curious (Yellow): Lena and her friend Börje are about to make love in her archive room. There's no bed, so they drag in a mattress and some sheets and pillows from another room, and make all sorts of elaborate preparations. At the moment they actually begin intercourse, a test pattern flips up on the screen. Cut to a pleasant looking announcer fixing her hair, not realizing she's already on camera. She says "We regret that we have had some technical difficulties owing to erection fault" (or "faulty coupling", depending on the translation).
  • Network parodies this and references the Chris Chubbuck tragedy after Howard Beale sarcastically announces that he's going to commit suicide on camera. At first the studio staff don't realize he's said it, mumbling gossip while the commercial is on; then panic, they open the studio mike to communicate with Howard, the immortal words "WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON" go out to 67 affiliates, he replies that he can't hear what they're saying, they come back from commercial and Howard is being pulled away from his desk by the floor crew — and just as the mayhem really starts the TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES PLEASE STAND BY card flips up.
  • Happens in a bonus feature on Finding Nemo when Jean-Michel Cousteau loses it thanks to Nemo, Dory and Marlin.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a Gas station clerk flicks though multiple channels, each with a test card on. Further proof that Skynet is taking over
  • Problem Child 2 has a patriotic puppet show suddenly hijacked, with the Uncle Sam puppet explaining "We are experiencing technical difficulties," and the bald eagle puppet chiming in with "Yeah — I had to scratch my balls!" The crowd is actually entertained for a change, and bursts into laughter. Naturally, Ben assumes that Junior is the culprit, but he's not.
  • At the end of The Running Man, the TV screens all read PLEASE STAND BY after Ben Richards and his girlfriend walk off the game show's studio set.
  • When Buzz in Monster Brawl is forced to shoot his fully zombified (it was inevitable) co-host Sidney, the film displays a "please stand by" banner. When the program returns, Buzz is wearing a neckbrace and laments how his co-host had to be put down "like mongrel dog".
  • Hell House LLC:
    • The official explanation for how fifteen people, including the entire crew, died. Throughout the film technical problems plague the Hell House team with disastrous results on opening night.
    • In Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, this remains the official explanation for the disaster in the Abaddon Hotel. Cameras also suffer serious distortions and anomalies whenever seriously supernatural stuff starts happening.
  • Occurs near the end of Joker (2019), complete with "Spanish Flea" playing, after Arthur, now taking up the persona of Joker, guns down talkshow Murray Franklin on live television. Joker grabs the camera, mockingly imitates Murray's catchphrase "And always remember, that's li-" as he's cut off by the studio switching to the Indian head test and playing "Spanish Flea" (although on another screen, we see Joker was jumped by a security guard right after that).


    Live-Action TV 
  • There was a Sitcom called Please Stand By named after this, taking place in a family owned-and-operated small market TV station.
  • The Outer Limits (1963) was originally titled Please Stand By. However, the title was changed because the producers and the network were afraid that between the title and the famous Opening Narration ("There is nothing wrong with your television set..."), people might mistake the opening sequence for a real emergency alert. (To add some historical perspective, the series premiered not long after the Cuban Missile Crisis.)
  • Home Improvement's Show Within a Show Tool Time would sometimes cut to these when Tim injured himself somehow. Such as the time he nailed his foot to the floor, and one of these pops up. Then we hear the sound of his co-host pulling the nail out...
  • During a Brass Eye special on Paedophilia, there is "technical difficulties", as a member of the militant paedophile organisation "Milit-Pede" attacks the studio.
  • Seen on The Colbert Report many times, usually when Stephen is doing something that would get him arrested or at the very least result in a lot of viewer complaints.
    Colbert: Well, folks, I have been informed by my network's lawyer that even when complimenting, I should not racially generalize, and I assume he is right, Jews make the best lawyers-[cue second Technical Difficulties screen)
  • Played for laughs on an episode of Empty Nest. Womanizer Charlie Dietz becomes a meteorologist on the local news and compares the size of some hailstones to the anchorwoman's breasts. Cue the trope.
  • A common subtrope for British shows that use this is to cut away to the classic Test Card F girl or a humorously modified version to fit the show. Used for example in Zero Punctuation.
  • British one-off Halloween Special Ghostwatch does this just as things start heating up in the Haunted House.
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Severed Dreams", an ISN reporter interrupts the news broadcast to announce that several Earth colonies have seceded in protest of President Clark's bombing of Mars and that armed troops have invaded ISN headquarters. An explosion is heard, then the broadcast goes off the air and is replaced by a network logo (without an explicit "Technical Difficulties" message, but with the same implications).
  • Saturday Night Live has used this multiple times.
    • One sketch involved a children's show called "Jingleheimer Junction", with characters personifying Friendship, Unity, Caring, and Kindness. And yes, they all had their initials written on them. Naturally, this trope was used repeatedly (telling viewers that they would be back in a "Jingleheimer Jiffy").
    • A season 28 sketch has host Bernie Mac playing a game show host, and he asks a contestant the question "Who is Winnie-the-Pooh's feline friend?". As the contestant is about to answer, the scene cuts to a "Please Stand By" screen, and then cuts to the host attacking the contestant, who is shouting "I meant to say Tigger, with a T!".
    • On the season 35 episode hosted by Drew Barrymore (for the sixth time, making her the show's most frequent female celebrity host), there was a sketch featuring a cooking show on the roof of a building. The show cuts to a "Please Stand By" placard every time the show hosts (played by Drew Barrymore and Andy Samberg) are attacked by crows (which are attracted to the bread crumbs the two are using for chicken parmigiana).
    • The TV Funhouse sketch "Conspiracy Theory Rock" immediately cut to a "Please Stand By" card (with the NBC peacock sweating nervously) as the song continued to accuse NBC of being GE's lackey. The song even pointed out that this trope is used as a cheap way to censor out anything sponsors or the network may deem inappropriate ("'Please stand by'/'Please stand by'/It means there's technical difficulties, supposedly/So if you see/A "Please Stand By"/You know it's all part of GE's big lie...")
  • In one rather hilarious example on Bill Nye the Science Guy this happens when Bill flicks a red-kneed tarantula onto the cameraman, causing the cameraman to drop the camera onto the floor. The cameraman screams "THE TARANTULA'S CRAWLING IN MY PANTS!!" while the trope name is broadcast on the screen.
  • Dead Set features any number of them. In this case the hopelessly non-descript "PLEASE STAND BY" of the messages serve to underline just how quickly and violently overrun everything was.
  • The "Commentary by Gernot Hassknecht" in the German political satire show Heute Show always ends with this, after Hassknecht starts his inevitable Cluster F Bombing.
  • 30 Rock uses this graphic. (And no, it's not used by NBC in real life.)
  • In the first season finale of The Hour, during the Show Within a Show, a graphic with this description goes up when a government official and higher-ups at the BBC think the show has gone too far.
  • Played for laughs on Sports Night; in the episode "Thespis", the Show Within a Show has been plagued by difficulties all night, and the latest is when a power grid goes off upstate, which affects their transmission and forces them to put up the graphic detailing technical difficulties.
  • James May's Man Lab: The cameraman gets so bored with the crew's argument over how to make tea that he simply puts his camera down and walks off. Cue an absolutely terrifying version of Test Card F, with Oz Clarke as the girl and James as the clown.
  • In At Last the 1948 Show, a costume drama in the vein of The Forsyte Saga has been de-railed by heads of programming leading visiting TV executives from first Jordan, then Nigeria onto the set, unaware they are broadcasting live. The continuity announcer snaps that perhaps the head of children's television will follow this by leading a group of Eskimos onto the set. A placard appears reading "Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible" - and, sure enough, the head of children's television and a group of Eskimos smash straight through the placard.
  • Right before the panellists show the audience their genitalia in the "Justice" episode of QI, the screen switches to the colour test card.
    Oh, dear! We, um, seem to have a technical problem. We're working to fix that as soon as we can. Uh Good, it's fixed now, so let's get straight back to QI. Hopefully, we haven't missed anything quite interesting.
  • In The Last Leg, this trope was played for laughs several times in series 6, usually whenever someone was about to say something controversial.
    • Also subverted for the first episode of series 7, when genuine technical issues interrupted the programme for several minutes. This was then played for laughs in the following episode, when Alex was unimpressed with the voice over man, to which the latter interrupted the programme straightaway to insult Alex back.
  • The Goodies. In "Invasion of the Moon Creatures", Graeme Garden loses contact with the moon rocket after it's hit by a meteor shower, whereupon his video screen shows: NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
    Graeme: This is Mission Control, are you receiving me? Please come in! [screen shows image of Mr Spock] Push off, you!
  • Several characters in The Morning Show are eventually silenced by a test pattern

  • Used repeatedly in the intro piece "SCG03 Special Report" to the Lordi album The Arockalypse as reporters are clearly taken out by monsters while on air.
  • "Technical Difficulties" by Julien-K, a rather indistinct song done for Transformers.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • ECW held their event ECW Gangstas Paradise on September 23, 1995, which produced two TV episodes. Near the end of the first of these shows, there was a locker room confrontation between The Public Enemy and New Jack and 2 Cold Scorpionote  where various cameraman were getting knocked out, leading to a "Please Stand By" message appearing on the screen.
  • WWE Raw for a time would have a graphic for this which featured, of course, a picture of Triple H. If you do a Google Images search for "Technical Difficulties" and either "Triple H" or "HHH," you will find many parodies of this.
    • DX did somewhat of a parody of this during one of their commercials for their merchandise. The two got into a Take That! contest that culminated with Hunter commenting on Shawn's thinning hair. Cue Shawn attacking Hunter, a quick flash of a graphic of DX with "Technical Difficulties," then flashing back to the two still fighting.

  • Orson Welles' 1938 Mercury Theatre dramatization of The War of the Worlds has one of these, after announcer Carl Phillips is burned up by the Martian heat ray.
  • Legendary British DJ John Peel would frequently have issues with the records he was playing, at least partly because they were often demo tapes mailed in by listeners or ridiculously obscure old vinyl he'd found on a market stall the day before the show. "Just talk among yourselves for a bit" and "I'm sorry, I seem to have played that at the wrong speed" became his most iconic Catch Phrases.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the pre-show for Shrek 4-D at Universal Studios, Lord Farquaad's ghost flies through the "Dungeon Cam", resulting in it cutting to a technical difficulties screen.

    Video Games 
  • Early in Ape Escape 3, Specter's taunting message to the heroes is interrupted by Dr. Tomoki's overdramatic posturing. When Specter loses his patience, the screen briefly cuts to a "Technical Difficulties" card showing a sad monkey.
  • BioShock is littered with TVs that show nothing but a flickering test card reading "PLEASE STAND BY", emphasizing the theme of Rapture being essentially abandoned.
  • Likewise, its spiritual predecessor System Shock 2, set on the starship Von Braun, has a movie theater displaying the Tri-Optimum logo, and stuck in a looping countdown with the words "Please Stand By", never showing any movies.
  • Getting a Game Over in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker evokes this, as the screen flickers and goes to static, before switching to a flickering, test card-esque continue screen.
  • Played for drama in Modern Warfare 2, where the intro sequence to the mission "Of Their Own Accord" is an emergency broadcast system alert containing evacuation instructions for residents of Washington, D.C..
  • The hotel-room-esque Relaxation Chamber you start Portal 2 in has a TV in the corner; the first time you wake up it's off, and the second time it displays this message. It's pretty redundant with everything else going on.
  • Shattered Union: In the intro, a news reporter is presenting a report from Washington DC when when the city is nuked.
  • A news report on a motel television in Mystery Case Files 9: Shadow Lake is interrupted by a screaming face followed by a technical difficulties sign.
  • Snaaaake! uses a technical difficulties sign as a loading screen.
  • The remake of the first Journeyman Project game, Pegasus Prime does this. When you're comparing video footage to find how the past was changed, one of them shows spokesperson Enrique Castillo being killed on-stage. The video then cuts to a futuristic TV test card, with the words "Please Stand By" over it.
  • Played for laughs in Obsidian. The first dream world is set in an oppressive bureaucracy populated by Vidbots that show human faces when activated. When you finally meet their chief, he loses his temper over all the rules you broke to reach him, so much that his face briefly glitches into an old color test card before he calms down.
  • Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4 all have a variation of the classic "Indian head" card that reads "Please Stand By" before loading the title card.
  • In stage 2 of Space Channel 5, a test pattern briefly pops up when Jaguar crashes Ulala's broadcast. It also happens in Part 2 when Ulala is apparently killed by Purge, and one of these replaces the loading screen.
  • Persona 5 Kunikazu Okumura suffers a mental shutdown and dies in the middle of his press conference. As the people in the studio scream in horror, the screen quickly changes to a cutesy crayon draw of a puppy chasing butterflies while equally cute music plays on the background.
  • Sonic Mania: At the end of the Studiopolis Zone Act 2 boss fight, the TV in the background displays a modified version of The BBC's test card F (an Eggman symbol replaces the girl and clown from the original), with loud static. Said static is taken directly from Sonic's 25th Anniversary livestream, where it infamously plagued said stream, and the numbers on the card even match the date of the stream.

    Web Animation 
  • This happens in the Zero Punctuation review of Stalker: Clear Sky when the video seemingly begins to stutter like a broken CD. Cut to one of these screens with Yahtzee and an imp playing Tic-tac-toe whilst smooth jazz plays.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "pizzaz", Strong Bad is interviewing himself, and at one point the interviewee gets mad and shouts "This interview is OVER!" Cut to a "HANG IN THERE" card featuring The Cheat standing next to an unplugged cable.
    • The Thanksgiving cartoon "Fall Float Parade" cut to a similar card, with a turkey instead of The Cheat, when the Marshie balloon crashed into the hosts' booth (and, presumably, broadcast equipment).

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • This has happened several times during Kent Brockman's news reports on The Simpsons, with technical difficulties graphics that included a puppy that has pulled a plug from the wall, a bird flying into powerlines, and Kent Brockman wrapped in a straitjacket with a cuckoo clock bird coming out of his head.
  • In one episode of South Park a news anchor does this manually— holding a card with an image of TV static and making Fake Static with his mouth— after the man-on-the-street interview they were doing resulted in a pedophile getting airtime. The anchor does it again after the pedo somehow gets interviewed again, muttering "god dammit" and making the static noises again.
  • The Critic has many pun-based technical difficulty signs used on Coming Attractions with Jay Sherman, such as "We'll be right bark!" with a picture of Jay as a dog.
  • Happens on the Beavis And Butthead episode "Tornado" where B&B are watching "Barney Bakes a Cake". Barney the Dinosaur sets himself on fire and we hear him [the guy in the highly flammable Barney suit] screaming "Ow, ow! I'm burning! Kids, help! This sucks!" behind the caption (the Edited for Syndication version immediately cut to the technical difficulties card featuring a blue Big Bird rather than show Barney's hands catching fire and shortened his line to "Kids, help! This sucks!") Heh-heh. Heh-heh.
  • Happens on the Total Drama Show Within a Show Celebrity Manhunt. As Eva angrily throws objects at the covering hosts we get a black and white, "Technical Difficulties" screen... of Blainley getting choked by the Drama machine while Josh looks on in melodramatic shock as Muzak plays in the background.
  • The Futurama episode "Bender Should Not Be Allowed On Television" had one after a child actor robot breaks down (literally) during an episode of All My Circuits. The technical difficulties card had a broken robot shrugging his shoulders and the words, "Oops! Broken Actor" and the show cuts to an episode of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad (which, Fry remarks, "...has been going downhill since season three").
    • Also used during the episode "The Problem With Popplers". When the Omicronians return to Earth, and the news station starts falling apart from the shaking.
    Linda: We seem to be experiencing technical difficulties...
    Beam falls in the background
    Linda: and crap like I've never seen before!
  • One episode of Freakazoid! starts like this, while you hear Freakzoid hastily try to put the finishing touches on the show in the background.
  • This was a Running Gag in the Ultimate Spider-Man episode "Freaky". One instance had a screen with a chibi Spider-Man holding a messed up video tape when Wolverine in Spider-Man's body slammed into the side of a building after a botched web-swing.
  • In Transformers Animated, Soundwave started a Robot War by turning machines against humanity. When the news guy's camera bot begins chasing him, turning the broadcast into a "Jaws" First-Person Perspective shot, and just as it catches up with him we get a "PLEASE STAND BY" screen instead of the probably un-TV-Y7 fate of the newscaster.
  • One short for Gravity Falls featured a commercial for a show called, "Lil' Gideon's Big House", which starred Lil' Gideon after he was sent to prison at the end of the first season. It ends with a still of a sparrow with the words 'TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES' 'PLEASE STAND BY' and Bud Gleeful saying, "Lil' Gideon's Big House will return as soon as we contain this riot."
  • In Spongebob Squarepants' "The Fry Cook Games", when the torch's flame is blown out by the wind, we get "PLEASE STAND BY" right before the runner brings back another, larger flame.
    • The very same "PLEASE STAND BY" screen appeared during the Patchy segments from "SpongeBob B.C.", when Patchy has an accident as stagehands appear on the set.
  • A card depicting a panicking cameraman dousing another guy with a fire extinguisher (in trying to aim for a camera that's on fire) appeared a few times in the Animated Adaptation of Dilbert, including once where a Bob Ross-Expy named Rusty Shanks was assaulted by a hitman from the "five families of art" (leading to a Brick Joke where Dilbert is delivered Rusty's head on a platter at a restaurant).
  • Actually happened at ABC during the September 24, 1977 East Coast broadcast of Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. In the middle of the Scooby-Doo cartoon, the film suddenly froze as it became jammed in the telecine. A black screen followed, then a bumper slide of the show appeared with the ABC announcer telling kids and their parents that they were experiencing technical problems and were working to resolve it.
  • The Bugs Bunny cartoon "Wideo Wabbit" has the floor director in a panic putting up a "Please Stand By" card in front of a TV camera when Bugs disrupts and runs off Elmer Fudd's "Sportsman's Hour" show.
  • One episode of Megas XLR depicted Pop TV's "Technical Difficulties" card as having Megas in the process of demolishing their studio.

    Real Life 
  • Averted with shocking result in real life with Christine Chubbucks's suicide. After she shot herself, the prevailing camera stayed focused on her while slowly fading to black. The camerawoman simply could not believe this wasn't a stunt or gag on Christine's part, but more likely because the producer of a 10am show in Sarasota in the early 70's usually didn't get a lesson on "What to do if your host shoots themselves on the air".
  • Outright averted — because his news conference was not being aired live — by the similar suicide of Budd Dwyer, a Pennsylvania Republican treasurer who was convicted of a lot of fraud charges, including embezzlement.
  • Test Card F, the British test card which has been parodied and homaged just about everywhere, really was used in cases of technical difficulties at the BBC, since it was the default image to be shown when the television transmitters were turned off or being switched over. Thus, whenever an actual technical difficulty hit the broadcast in the days of analogue TV (such as a transmitter breaking down), it was common to see Test Card F show up. The BBC's website references this by having the iconic clown appear on Error 404 pages.
  • One of the stranger causes of technical difficulties in the 50s and 60s was the weekly CONELRAD or EBS test. Before the two-toned attention signal was devised, stations would begin an alert by quickly switching their transmitter on and off. This was so stressful to the equipment that the procedure became known to engineers as the "EBS Stress Test".
  • During times of extreme political turmoil, European radio stations have been known to switch to an all-classical all-the-time format.
    • As happened most notably after the Chernobyl disaster, while officials were working out how to efficiently communicate what had just happened to the public.
    • During the failed 1991 coup in Moscow, all three Soviet TV channels were broadcasting Swan Lake, and audiences realized that something monumental was happening. Mainly because a recording of this ballet was the go-to film when one of the Soviet Premiers died.
  • On 4 June 1989, what was then known as Radio Beijing began its shortwave broadcast with a brief statement that protesters in Tiananmen Square had been killed by army troops. The announcer then apologized for not being able to provide any more information or to continue the regularly scheduled broadcast and then played classical music without interruption for the rest of the hour.
    • Roughly 2005 or so, in Chinese news, there was a statement, "Censorship has relaxed in China, however, it is still present, as in the case of... (broadcast interrupted)." Nobody died though, as the reporter was still around to announce the news.
  • In the 60's, the NBC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi, which was owned by an insurance company looking to deny the Civil Rights Movement was happening and protect the interests of Jackson's white business community (which was hotly opposed to the movement), would often suddenly have "technical difficulties" (and throw up a slide to that effect) whenever a network news report about the Civil Rights movement and its activities would be broadcast, and even NBC primetime programming which showed African-Americans in any positive light would suddenly be knocked off the air due to "a network problem". Many protested this, including the NBC network itself, and in 1968, the station became the first and only television station to ever have their FCC license to broadcast revoked for non-technical reasons. The new ownership group and future owners made sure the station was fair and evenhanded in their news coverage after they took control, and somehow magically fixed those "technical difficulties" permanently.
  • While not quite technical difficulties per se, anyone in the USA who thought to flip through the channels as 9/11 happened (and no one can blame folks who didn't), saw that many non-news/non-kids stations had some sort of card up saying they would be off the air for the rest of the day due to the events going on. Examples of this from television stations in New York can be seen here.
  • Also happened in the UK after the death of Princess Diana. Virtually every non-news channel only showed a caption stating she had died, and to switch to Sky News. All well and good, but considering this carried on for several hours, with no new news being broadcast, it got a bit annoying if you wanted to watch something else.
    • Radio stations (including popular music stations) also reverted to sombre and/or classical music (ie the Twin Peaks theme) for the entire morning, with a repeating message (from Independant Radio News for the commercial stations) as explanation. This continued for two or three days, and even when normal programming resumed it seemed that 'Britpop' had not survived the interlude.
    • Ditto though to a lesser degree after the Queen Mother's death. Both of them.
    • According to leaked information, when Queen Elizabeth II dies, each BBC channel on air at the time (as of 2018, BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, plus each of the BBC's radio stations, although it is unclear if CBBC or CBeebies will be involved) will automatically switch broadcast to a sequence of photographs of the Queen for a period of several minutes, during which the staff of BBC News will prepare for a breaking news report on the unfortunate situation.
    • If you ever hear the phrase "This is the BBC from London" when one of their channels suddenly stops regular broadcasting, someone significant has died - this will occur either as a result of the sudden death of a reigning monarch or other member of the Royal Family (the phrase was used on the death of Princess Diana, as described above), or the death of the incumbent Prime Minister.
  • On the day that Michael Jackson died, Channel Four cut out a sketch on one of its shows that was less than glamorous about the pop star. However, the announcement of him being hospitalised occurred between the original broadcast and the 1 hour delay channel. Due to this rush they accidentally put up "This programme will continue in sound only" instead of "Programmes will continue shortly".
  • During the '50s and early '60s, West German TV would experience mysterious "Tonstörungen" (sound difficulties) whenever they were transmitting sports events of any kind - more precisely, whenever the East German anthem was played during the medal presentations.
  • During the final speech of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu on 21 December 1989, broadcast on live television, the crowd that had "voluntarily" assembled in Palace Square in Bucharest began to boo and heckle their leader, an unprecedented event. As Ceaușescu trailed off in his speech with a look of utter disbelief on his face, the live feed quickly cut to a plain orange screen, with first picture, then sound coming back when order was (temporarily) restored and the speech could continue. (The cameras were still recording, however, and the sound of Ceaușescu resorting to pretending his microphone must be malfunctioning was captured for posterity.)
  • Prairie Public Television in North Dakota experiences one during a broadcast of the British drama Heartbreak House after the tape malfunctions.
  • An odd example: On Danish television channels from the early ages of TV till the 2000's, when the channels were off air, they would display the technical difficulties screen with a loud never-ending beep. Around 2007-08, due to TV stations getting better equipment, it's rare to see a single channel have it during the off-air hours. Now they are replaced with a slideshow overview of the next day of broadcasts with the TV-station's radio counterpart playing music in the background. This has mostly been because of the technical difficulty screen having next to no use, even when technical difficulties are happening, mostly with how easy it is to fix them and how it's faster to have the TV-station's narrator to explain what's up.
  • A further odd example is the formerly annual Rebroadcast Standby test that was carried out by the BBC when analogue transmitters were still in use. Put simply, in the unlikely event that an individual transmitter lost all its data feeds (something that would require a pretty big disruption such as a nationwide power cut), it should have been capable of rebroadcasting on-air signals from operational transmitters, to varying levels of quality. The Rebroadcast Standby test, which would take place in the middle of the night on BBC 1 and 2 for a period of about three hours, allowed engineers to evaluate the quality of rebroadcast signals at selected transmitters by cutting off the data feeds at will. Thus, this was a case where a broadcaster was intentionally inducing technical difficulties, and anyone tuning in on an analogue signal was met with Test Card J and a creepy speaking clock. Here is an example from 2008.
  • Many years before, back in The '50s, The BBC would go one better than a simple static message by showing its short "interlude films" (most famously "the potter's wheel") when there were breakdowns on set, which were frequent as most programmes (including drama) were broadcast live. (These films would also be shown during unscheduled breaks in programming, or for interludes in plays. A short feature showing some of the films can be found here.)
  • The entire BBC suffered a major power failure on 30th June 2001, which affected the whole Television Centre knocking all its services off the air. Flipping through the BBC television channels didn't help either: all they displayed during the outage was We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties cards.
  • This small error from CTV's feed of the 1987 Grammy Awards. The technical difficulty only lasts about two seconds, but it's slight Nightmare Fuel for those who didn't see it coming.
  • In 1992 NBC's broadcast of the 1992 Orange Bowl was interrupted by a fire in NBC's studio. NBC was able to switch to the Japanese feed of the game. Fortunately unlike the below example, the game had been decided by that point so not much was missed in the dead time.
  • On October 27, 2015 Game 1 of the 2015 World Series on Fox was knocked off the air nationally when a broadcast truck lost power. The game was off the air for about 30 seconds leaving commentators on screen referencing the incident and Fox switched coverage to that of MLB network. The situation lasted about five minutes.
  • The 2016 edition of A Capitol Fourth, PBS' broadcast of the White House's 4th of July celebrations, used footage of fireworks from previous years because cloudy skies in Washington made the live fireworks hard to view. PBS drew criticism from viewers for making this move but not mentioning it on camera.
    • Shortly before the 2017 edition, Kellie Pickler fell ill and was unable to attend, so pre-recorded footage from her rehearsal of her scheduled performance was shown instead, with host John Stamos announcing that the performance was a recording while the rest of the show was live.
  • Similarly, on Dancing with the Stars season 21, Tamar Braxton became ill before she was to perform her week 9 dance, so dress rehearsal footage was shown in place of the live performance. She became well enough to perform a duet rumba with Nick Carter later that night, but had to withdraw anyway when she contracted pulmonary embolisms.
  • On October 9, 2016 Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO experienced technical difficulties during the Cleveland Browns game against the New England Patriots. According to this article, most Cleveland sports fans that day were yelling at their TV after the game had come back on!
  • This used to happen in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. If a balloon couldn't make it to the broadcast areanote , then they would have to put on prerecorded footage of said balloon, either test footage or footage of it from a previous year, while the hosts would remind us that "we're enjoying some of our balloons on video". After no less than five instances of this in 1997, new safety measures were brought in, and hardly any balloon casualties have happened since then; the last time they threw on the video was when the M&M's balloon injured two sisters in 2005.
    • For unexplained reasons, in 1992, Harry Groener and the cast of Crazy For You did not perform their selection live; rehearsal footage was shown in its stead.
  • Atlanta TV station WATL once aired the movie Crash. What makes this unusual is that the opening logos were actually glitching.
  • When CBS broke into their regular programming note  to report on the shooting of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, they only had their "Bulletin" bumper slide up as their cameras were not warmed up yet. This "technical difficulty" was never specified on-air but did occur twice. CBS eventually went live with Walter Cronkite at the top of the hour after they broke for ten seconds to allow their affiliates to identify themselves and join the network. See it here.
  • Puerto Rico TV station WAPA had this happen to them during Ricardo Rosselló's resignation speech. They had been using the Governor's Facebook Live transmission to broadcast said speech when it froze just as he was about to announce his resignation. While the staff frantically tried to reload the page, the crowd at the Governor's mansion (who had been watching the speech via WAPA), began to shout in disbelief in the background. Eventually they managed to load the stream again just in time for the audience to hear Rosselló's resignation announcement.


Video Example(s):



Saitama tries to go easy on Sonic but it doesn't go as planned.

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / GroinAttack

Media sources:

Main / GroinAttack