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Austria subtitles error: Mix-up sees soap opera captions appear as new government sworn in

Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen, right, with new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 7, 2020
Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen, right, with new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 7, 2020 Copyright AP Photos/Ronald Zak
By Julie GaubertJohannes Pleschberger
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Public broadcaster left red-faced after captions mistake.


Normally, the swearing-in of a new government is a very sober affair. 

But it was anything but in Austria this week when subtitles on a state television broadcast were mixed up with a romantic soap opera.

It meant phrases like "Too bad Alisa didn't get the job" appeared on screen as Sebastian Kurz returned to power on Tuesday. 

Instead of relaying what Kurz was saying as his coalition with the Greens was inaugurated, viewers saw "Bon Appetito" and "Mom has nothing against it?"

They were from the soap opera Alisa, Folge deinem Herzen (Alisa, follow your heart), which was broadcast on the same channel before the ceremony. 

Public broadcaster ORF (Österreichischer Rundfunk) apologised in a statement, saying it was a "processing error".

Two days after the ceremony, the broadcast is still available on ORF, but the subtitles have been since been corrected.  

Kevin Kühnert, deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, re-tweeted screenshots of the broadcast with the message: "These wrong TV subtitles are really the best of the year so far. I laugh tears." 

The screenshot shows Kurz sitting next to Austria's president, Alexander Van der Bellen, with the subtitles saying "No, not him again".

The subtitles say "No, not him again."

Another example shows politics analyst Peter Filzmaier saying "Your mom is going mad. And I will be responsible again."

It happened as Austria began a new political era as Kurz's conservative People's Party (ÖVP) entered into an unlikely coalition with the Greens.

It completed a comeback for Kurz as Austria's chancellor. Eight months ago his party's coalition with the far-right collapsed after a video sting. 

The Cabinet sworn in by President Alexander Van der Bellen is Austria's first with a female majority and marks the first time that the environmentalist Greens have entered the country's national government.

The combination of Kurz's centre-right People's Party and the Greens, traditional adversaries, could set an example for other countries — in particular, neighbouring Germany, where polls suggest a similar combination could become possible after the next election.

Kurz reclaims the title of the world's youngest serving head of government from Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, 34, who took office last month.

Kurz, a precocious political talent who became foreign minister at 27, played a leading role in all but shutting down the Balkan route used by many migrants to Europe in 2016 and has made a tough line on migration a hallmark of his party.

He first became chancellor at 31 in late 2017, leading a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. In May, a video showing then-Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache offering favours to a purported Russian investor prompted Kurz to pull the plug.

Parliament then ousted Kurz in a no-confidence vote. In recent months, Austria has been run by a non-partisan interim government under Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein.

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