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When subtitles go wrong: Did he just call the Chief Minister ‘babe’...?

Features | Published:

IT’S fair to say that 2020 has been a disturbing, difficult and really rather dramatic year.

The Chief Minister delivers some painful news (28548717)

One minute there was just the occasional TV news report about a flu-like virus in a city no one had ever heard of, the next we were being told to sing happy birthday while washing our hands, just in case it found its way over here.

Then medical experts realised that whatever the virus was, it couldn’t be defeated through the medium of song, and we were all told to stay indoors.

Throughout these dark, dark times, we have all needed a little bit of light relief.

And some of the best comedy has come from a surprising source – the Government of Jersey’s press briefings.

No, not from the ministers themselves, but from what happened when the automated subtitles went rogue.

Deputy editor Richard Heath looks back on some of the best subtitle slip-ups.

Where are you putting that needle?

Countries across the world rolled out simple swab or finger-prick testing programmes as the Covid-19 pandemic spread. Not so here, according to Chief Minister John Le Fondré, who seemingly suggested that Island medics were taking an alternative route to getting to the bottom of the whole coronavirus thing. It’s interesting to note how the Senator can be seen wincing as he announces the buttock-jab rollout.

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The Chief Minister delivers some painful news (28548717)

Father of the House

Let’s face it, it’s happened to us all. You’re six years old, sitting in your classroom and you stick your hand in the air to ask a question and you accidentally call your teacher ‘Daddy’. You get teased in the playground for the next few days and then everyone forgets about it and moves on until someone else makes the same faux pas. Sadly, according to the subtitles, many decades on from his primary school days, Chief Minister John Le Fondré is still being afflicted by this paternal confusion.

Who's the daddy? (28548719)

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Saucy statements

In the very early days of the pandemic, long before lockdown, when no-one knew what an ‘R-rate’ was and when ‘furlough’ wasn’t yet a real word, the government pondered how to let people know when they were about to hold an important press conference. They settled on texting absolutely everyone in the Island. There was, though, seemingly a time when the Chief Minister was holding out for a ‘select’ audience. The look of shock on Health Minister Richard Renouf’s face suggests this piece of government policy had not been discussed around the Council of Ministers’ table before Senator Le Fondré informed the Island media.

If you received this text, well, what can we say (28548721)

Government policy is pasta-a-joke

It’s amazing how the mind can wander, even at the most crucial of times. And so it is perhaps not surprising that after announcing three sources of testing, Chief Minister John Le Fondré went on to discuss a classic Italian main course. Three sauces: Ragu? Bolognaise? Or a simple carbonara? And the press briefing was held just before dinner time. Give the guy a break.

Three sauces (28548735)

Poo-pooing the recovery plan

If the subtitles are to be believed, the JEP’s economics reporter Ian Heath went full-on Paxman when he took ministers to task over their plan to revitalise the economy. The no-nonsense hardcore hack also proved that the subtitle profanity filter was working just fine.

Ian, telling it how it is (28548746)

Notebook, pen, plant, TV guide

Most reporters take just a notebook and pen to a press conference. The anonymous journalist from Bailiwick Express did not conform and carted along a doll made out of a succulent plant known for its health benefits and a TV guide just in case they got bored, which they probably did.

Aloe vera plants (28548748)

Weeding out new laws

There is not a government leader in the world who hasn’t tried to slip out a controversial piece of legislation when the whole nation was distracted by some major event or other. So hats off to the Chief Minister for seemingly announcing the legalisation of cannabis while everyone’s attention was being consumed by Covid.

The subtitles making a hash of it again (28548750)

Minister, Senator...babe?

Some reporters are never quite sure how to address a politician. Do you go formal and use their political rank or ministerial title? Or just opt for Mr or Mrs? Harry from Channel 103 seemingly took a far more casual approach, not only opting to chat up the panel but offering an explanation as to why he was a little late for the briefing.

Sorry... what?(28548802)

No further comment

No idea what the subtitles were alleging here. But we have taken legal advice and can confirm that any allegation, if one were being made, is strongly refuted. We make no further comment.

No further comment (28548769)
Richard Heath

By Richard Heath
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