This morning I wrote an email to Channel 5, which is known as an independent national channel in the UK (@5_news). They aired footage of Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident in Vegas 2011, on their broadcast Monday, October 7th, 2013. They did this within their coverage of a more recent incident – Dario Franchitti’s horrifying crash during the last lap of Race 2 at the IndyCar Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, which took place this past Sunday, October 6, 2013.
I was made aware of this footage airing during a Twitter conversation, just about 24 hours after Dario’s accident…
Doubly angry that some broadcasts have even shown Dan’s crash too. Just how damned insensitive can you be? Unnecessary & coldly callous
— Johanna H (@writebend) October 7, 2013
— Shay (@SHAYZEN) October 7, 2013
@SHAYZEN I know, I’m absolutely furious!! Do they have no consideration for Dan’s family?! Or Dario’s? Shocking ignorance & lack or respect
— Johanna H (@writebend) October 7, 2013
Needless to say, we continued our discussion & opted to write letters to Channel 5. Appalled by the thoughtless decision of this network, I penned the letter posted below this morning and sent it via email. I received an automated reply stating, “Channel 5 welcomes all comments from viewers about its programmes,” along with information about their websites and FAQ’s.
The louder response however, was from the Twitter world – I had not made my letter public but the fact that I had even written one got out and I was forwarding it to fellow #indyfamily tweeters via their direct request – they were all just as upset about the broadcast incident. (Mind you that the anger and hurt was felt well outside the UK… news travels fast in this world of social media and those of us in the States were just as frustrated & taken aback by the station’s decision to air Dan’s fatality.) I quickly received feedback from those who read my letter to @5_news, requesting that I post it here on @MTAFWheels and get the word out about this. So here we are… thank you to those of you who continue to push me, support me and always have my back. I hope to always give you the same in return. We will continue to stand up for our #indyfamily… especially for those who are no longer here to protect their own.
My letter to @5_news:
I have to beg the question of who made the decision to show footage live on air of a high-speed racing accident that you KNEW resulted in the death of a young and very popular driver in the IndyCar series? What exactly were you thinking?! You do realize that Dan Wheldon’s family is across two continents and every network I am aware of, including those contracted directly with IndyCar, opted without question to never show that accident on television broadcasts ever again. It’s bad enough that it is on YouTube and one day when his two young boys are old enough, they may stumble upon that video and see their father die with their own eyes… but for your network to be so insensitive and cold-hearted, to show that footage when you have no idea who might be watching, is incredibly irresponsible and shows your lack of empathy for your viewers and complete disregard for Dan’s family, his friends and those that well, I don’t know, might not want to watch footage of a car accident where someone was KILLED!!!
This decision by your network is absolutely deplorable. Just because we have access to everything we could imagine thanks to the internet these days, doesn’t mean that you need to follow suit and have the audacity to bring it into people’s homes in an unwarranted fashion. I hope that you and your network executives who make these decisions will try their hardest in the future to abide by the policies of respect and taste – not only for the victim and his loved one’s but for those individuals who may not have knowledge of the incident and perhaps do not want to see something so graphic in an unexpected manner.
I have followed IndyCar my entire life. I write a freelance weekly column about the series for a local motorsports website, so maybe I am just more in tune with the pain and the suffering that the loss of Dan has had on this community of very tight-knit fans (fans who refer to one another as family, more often than not), so I couldn’t help but be incredibly shocked and disgusted when I heard that you aired Dan’s fatality on your news broadcast. Please take the time to do your homework before you include such images in your broadcasts – take in to consideration the people that might be viewing those images and how it might effect them. I understand you were drawing a comparison on the similarities of the anatomy of the two crashes – but discussing it verbally would have been sufficient. The images themselves were entirely unnecessary.
All IndyCar fans made that connection as soon as Dario was in the fence this past Sunday. TRUST ME. And it was horrible enough recounting those images from our own memories… for you to have it on the screen while someone (potentially his family) is just trying to sit down and watch a news episode, is deplorable. HE DIED. Do you not understand that?! Maybe consider something other than the sensationalism that a broadcast can get you, maybe take into account the fact that some things in this world are more important than your ratings. People don’t tune into the news for a “shock and awe” effect – they tune in so they can be aware of what is happening in their world. Unfortunately, it seems that the day you aired this, the only thing you informed them of was your high levels of ignorance and insensitivity.
***Update – 10/08/13 – 8:07 PM EST : After this article made it’s way around to a large group of IndyCar fans on Twitter, I was informed by one of them that NBC Nightly News’ Monday night broadcast had also shown footage of Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash in the middle of a report on Dario Franchitti’s accident. I am in the process of sending a letter to them as well, nearly identical to the one above. Also, as of now I have yet to receive a response from Channel 5 or Ofcom in the UK regarding the airing of Dan’s fatality.