ART goes a goal down as World Cup viewers revolt

World Cup broadcaster ART has admitted it should have used the media more effectively to deal with the barrage of complaints from disgruntled viewers.

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By  Steve Wrelton Published  June 25, 2006

World Cup broadcaster ART has admitted it should have used the media more effectively to deal with the barrage of complaints from disgruntled viewers. The broadcaster has come under fire from football fans, some of whom have spent several hundred dollars for the World Cup service, complaining about ART’s management of the situation. In the Saudi city of Madinah subscribers are reported to have confronted ART workers outside its offices in protest at signal problems, and Dubai-based tabloid 7Days started a campaign to get scores and times put on screen. Others have complained they cannot get through to call centres and have to wait days to be connected to the service. ART’s marketing director, Maher Bardawil, told Campaign that the company did not have a designated spokesperson to deal with media enquiries but that it had tried to deal with customer complaints effectively. “I wished that we had used the media more effectively, but we did what we did in the given circumstances,” he said. “The media is very important, it reflects the customers and I would like to have more dialogue in the future.” But Bardawil defended the company’s service performance by saying that it had responded to calls to display the score on English language broadcasts and that its customer service centre had acted professionally. “I was a mystery customer and they responded to me immediately. It is absolutely unfair on our staff — they are very professional,” he said. PR firms have criticised ART’s handling of the situation, claiming the broadcaster had been ill-prepared to deal with media enquiries. Louay Al Samarrai, managing director of Active PR in Dubai, said that ART had been “arrogant” in its handling of the situation. “They could have been a lot better about communicating how to work the set-top box and they have been particularly unresponsive about why there is no scorecard on the English channel or how you go about getting it quickly,” he said. Mohamed Al Ayed, CEO of TRACCS in Saudi Arabia, said that ART should have made contingency plans and PR preparations before the tournament began. “When you have something like the World Cup that people wait every four years to see, obviously somewhere in the chain they should have known that some things were going to be an issue and were they going to be prepared from a PR point of view,” he said. But he added: “There’s still a couple of weeks left and the media could be their best ally in this. It’s not too late, they need to look at the issues and explain their point of view to the public about what they are doing to resolve the issues because not speaking doesn’t cut it one bit.” Stephen Worsley, client services director at Polaris Public Relations in Dubai, said ART should not have adopted a “siege mentality”. “They should be willing to engage with the media who are speaking on behalf of customers, and if they’re not doing that they’re making the situation worse,” he said.

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