World Cup coverage irks French

A foul-up in the television transmission of the World Cup soccer tournament in Mexico has infuriated some of the French and indeed, many Europeans. Occassional television blackouts of the games started the problems. But the situation reached a peak when the sound went out. Commentators in Paris have been forced to use telephone hookups to describe the game. Sometimes, even those connections haven't worked.

It remains unclear exactly what's wrong and why the connections aren't working. Since last September's earthquakes, the Mexican television company Televisa has installed an ultrasophisticated transmission system which hooks up with United States satellites.

Some of the French blame Mexican incompetence. ``The games should have been given to a grown-up country,'' announced Alain Vernon, sports director of the first state-run channel, ``not a country which is incapable of handling modern communications.''

Some Europeans claim extortion. With indignation, Mr. Vernon and other television officials complain about the prices they are being charged to cover the games. A spot in the press booth costs $4,000 a day, they say. Renting the chair in the booth costs another $100.

It must be added that some of these complaints have not been well received here. Many Frenchmen, especially on the left, pride themselves on their third world sympathies. The Socialist-oriented daily, Lib'eration, complained that the television journalists may be hiding the real reason for their sentiment. In its first game last week, the French team just squeaked by Canada's amateurs, 1 to 0. ``As bad as the technical conditions were,'' wrote Lib'eration's Edouard Waintrop, ``the exhibition by the French players was even worse.''

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