One of the most troubling aspects amid the general madness of the Rangers administration crisis has been the way those in the mass media – specifically those making decisions in TV and radio – have demonstrated a truly bizarre feel for the types of voices being allowed and encouraged to fill the studios and the airwaves.
STV, as so often in recent times, has been the most impressive. Their team of sports journalists is without question the best in the Scottish sporting media and the Scotland Tonight programme has done its best within the time constraints to offer some spirited and intelligent debate. And it has given Rangers fans a chance to speak on the matters at hand. This may seem obvious – after all, this is about our club – but not everyone has been so quick to allow such people a chance to express themselves. Indeed, the people being given air-time have too often demonstrated and come to illuminate what will strike many as a very peculiar sensibility.
Sky Sports - which it has to be said very rarely gives the impression of being interested in their Scottish ‘product’, and often slips into the kind of basic error that betrays this low priority – has been kind enough to give us the thoughts of (amongst others) Davie Provan, Andy Walker and – as their first port of call - Charlie Nicholas.
BBC – which is a many-headed beast and thus offers many more avenues and outlets for punditry and opinion – has been happy enough to give time to a man (Kevin McCarra) whose knowledge of Scottish football doesn’t even extend to the ability to know that a team has no game on a certain weekend and multi-format exposure for someone who even tonight had to have the recent updates in the saga explained to him as if he were in a one-to-one tutorial (Pat Nevin).
C4 offered up Tom Devine (on rare decent form) but has now decided to push out the boat and allow Alex Thomson to investigate; his three blogs last week spent the majority of space illustrating 1) a general lack of knowledge of the whole business (letting a Clydebank fan speak of being cheated when the club has never been in the SPL and is – point of fact – no longer a senior league side) 2) a general willingness to embrace and encourage those in the blogosphere whose main function and purpose is to run RFC into the ground and 3) openly allowing more room across those articles for the opinions of those who aren’t Rangers fans.
The people doing much of the talking on this issue have been a mixture of those who aren’t sympathetic, those a little out of touch on local issues and those who are – quite frankly – what Ian Davidson MP described tonight as “simply bad people.”
Tonight’s programme on Radio Five Live went off the rails a little – and suffered some bizarre tangential leaps – but as a whole it was by far the best programme so far on the ongoing crisis. It was no whitewash but allowed those so far marginalised or ignored to offer their thoughts, with contributions from elected representatives, fans’ groups, financial experts and many more.
Mark Chapman asked some good and searching questions, most of the panel (Pat Nevin excluded) seemed to know what was going on and even allowing for some sly attempts at conflating issues (see Daly, Mark) it was exactly the sort of discussion that shows up those in charge of radio output north of Hadrian’s Wall. Henry McLeish’s contribution was especially impressive and makes you wonder what might have been and what may yet be if Henry can really make good on his plans for Scottish football and work on the organisation – the SFA- he labelled “dysfunctional.”
The reaction from the usual green suspects on Twitter and beyond has been predictably splenetic. Much of it is – of course – littered with sectarian references and bilious self-regard.
They genuinely think it’s all about them. How dare someone hold a sensible debate where most of those involved aren’t of a chippy WOS Yahoo mindset?
Even broadcasters are confused: Jim Delahunt, host of unquestionably the worst football phone-in the English-speaking world has ever suffered, seemed bemused by the discussion and wondered why the usual mixture of fabrications and fanciful supposition wasn’t allowed to develop. It doesn’t even occur to some of these people that we deserve better, for as Tagsbear on Twitter noted: “Jim must think he is hosting Question Time and not some drop-in zone for the paranoid.”
Those who are a little less wired-to-the-moon may consider the impact of this programme and look to make one of their own. STV’s foot soldiers have already floated the idea. We can only hope they don’t fall for the trick of inviting a disproportionate number of people along who will live down to stereotypes.
The podcast will soon be up at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/5live
It is well worth the effort.