Two weeks ago we saw the reaction of Rangers to the publication of the “Rangers masterplan”. The reaction might be seen by some as rather extreme.
The day after the publication, the BBC had sent its journalists along to Ibrox for the Third Division title-winning celebration.
Amongst the BBC staff on site at Ibrox were Chris McLaughlin and Chick Young.
As the day progressed, the BBC reported that Mr McLaughlin had been told to leave and that Mr Young too had been removed, although he was told that he could stay to watch the game but could not broadcast from the ground.
One might wonder why they were allowed in to the ground, except of course that barring the BBC from the ground pre-emptively might not have been as attractive to the customers as turfing them back out.
On one view, as it is a private place, Rangers can decide who comes in and out of its premises. But there are contractual issues which mean that access ought to be granted, as I will discuss below.
RANGERS Football Club can confirm the BBC is no longer welcome at Ibrox Stadium or Murray Park.
The club asked BBC journalists to leave the stadium ahead of today’s Division Three title party against Berwick Rangers.
Rangers Director of Communications James Traynor said: “We are aware of our contractual obligations but we also have to be aware of our duty to protect the players, manager and supporters against reporting which lacks logic, balance and fairness.”
It is an interesting attack – that the reporting lacks logic, balance and fairness – every other report on Rangers clearly has those three qualities!
Bizarrely the final straw seemed to have been the coverage given by the rest of the press to the leaked strategy document. The BBC report did not suggest that it envisaged the sacking of Mr McCoist. Other media outlets covered the story by saying that the sacking of Mr McCoist was an intended outcome of the plan. So the BBC was punished for revealing a document which was not alleged to be anything other than genuine. The BBC mentioned it was a plan by a major investor. The BBC said it did NOT spell the end of Mr McCoist.
One wonders what was wrong with the report, apart from the BBC having had the temerity to write something about Rangers with which those in charge (or at least a faction in charge) at Ibrox did not agree!
One might also note that barring the BBC from contact with Rangers has not stopped the BBC reporting the Ibrox story. In fact it guarantees that the Rangers side of the story does not get across clearly to the BBC.
If Rangers are unhappy with the coverage then surely the way to deal with this is by making formal complaints, as it has done, and potentially taking court action, if it feels that there are grounds for doing so.
Other people have already referred to comments by Mr Traynor, when he was on the Daily Record, condemning the practice of “banning” journalists.
He is of course now Director of Communications at Ibrox. He may still be a member of the NUJ.
It starts and goes on in paragraph 1 to say:
Members of the National Union of Journalists are expected to abide by the following professional principles
1 At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.
I accept that it is different working as a Director of Communications rather than directly as a journalist. However does Mr Traynor no longer consider himself to be a journalist?
Barring the BBC seems somehow not to be in accordance with the principles of media freedom, freedom of expression and right of the public to be informed.
Clearly a problem which comes from having a poacher turn gamekeeper!
If however the plan was to do something to make fans feel happy, then banning the BBC at least managed to satisfy the Rangers fans online.
What about the contractual issues which Mr Traynor acknowledges?
The SFL Rules state:-
71.4.1 take all reasonable steps to assist in securing compliance by the League with its obligations to third parties in implementing the terms of such contracts and in particular shall, without prejudice to the foregoing generality, make available appropriate facilities for the transmission or recording by any means of matches under the auspices of the League and shall be deemed to licence the use by the League of all such transmissions, recordings, publications or official photographs and of any copyrights of Members required by the League in connection with such transmissions, recordings, publications or official photographs;
That rule seems to suggest that a deliberate decision to bar a broadcaster who has contractual relationships with the SFL allowing it rights to broadcast coverage of the SFL would be a disciplinary offence.
However I am unaware of any action being taken by the SFL, or indeed of any words at all from the league about this. It sounds as if the SFL simply want to pass on over the issues and to hope that nothing pops up about it again.
The BBC could take action itself, on the basis that this behaviour by Rangers breaches the BBC/SFL contract. The BBC has been outspoken in the past about organisations or people who refuse to speak to it despite having a contractual obligation to do so. It does seem though that the BBC too, having made an issue of the matter on the day of the ban, has decided to let it lie, or at least to do things behind the scenes.
Some accuse Rangers of arrogance, exemplified by the slogan “We are the People”. Frankly its passage through SFL3 with demands for apologies from all and sundry (apparently a new World Record) seems to show that the mindset of supremacy remains (and my reference to supremacy is NOT to anything other than the thought that it is the best football team in the land – I will leave sociological implications of that word to those more knowledgeable).
Anyone want a bet on how soon the ban will be quietly dropped, and BBC reporters will once again be allowed access to Ibrox?
Posted by Paul McConville