Sony Respond to BBC ‘Yellow Light Of Death’ Allegations
Ray Maguire the Sony UK managing director and senior VP hit back at the BBC today for preparing to broadcast an episode of Watchdog that aired tonight. The episode was, much as Maguire suspected, highly critical of Sony. In particular it concerns a suspected hardware fault, signified by a light nicknamed the ‘yellow light of death.’
For our American readers, Watchdog is a consumer affairs program based around investigating fraudulent or consumer unfriendly businesses. After watching the show myself, it’s far from resembling serious journalism. In particular the country & western parody song that closed the segment gave it a very childish tone.
The full text of the letter can be read over on Gamesindustry.biz. However for the sake of brevity, I’ve picked out some of Sony’s primary concerns with the program.
- Part of the show features a segment where a commercial organisation is hired by the BBC to perform free repairs of the PS3. They drive around in a van with the phrase, “PlayStation Repair Action Team – SONY charge a fee – let Watchdog repair it for free.” Sony object to the implication that charging a repair fee after the standard 1 year warranty has expired is unusual. They also note that the fee they charge, although higher than some third party repair services, still involves a subsidy from Sony due to the exceedingly high cost of the specialist equipment used.
- Sony point out that the third party commercial organisations featured in the show have a vested interest in emphasising faults with the PS3 hardware.
- The language used by the independent organisation the BBC consulted is extremely cautious. They also challenge the hypothesis that soldering faults are responsible for hardware failures based on this organisation’s own evidence.
For a highly placed Sony executive, the language used throughout the letter is pretty forceful. Between seeing this letter and watching the show, Sony have some fairly legitimate concerns with the content. The description they gave of the show was accurate. That being said, I found it hard to sympathise with either side. Perhaps the best way to understand the vested interests on both side of this argument is to look at the way each side presents the numbers of people affected.
Maguire quotes the overall percentage, “fewer than one half of one per cent.” On the other hand the BBC quote the total number of affected customers at 12,500. Sony want to minimise the scale of this issue to protect their reputation, the BBC want to emphasise its scale to attract viewers and make a more exciting show. In my own opinion, Sony don’t appear to have done anything particularly anti-consumer. However I doubt I’d think that way if I was one of the insignificant percentage/unacceptable quantity of PS3 owners that have been affected.
British Users can watch the show on BBC iPlayer