BBC Scotland – A Corporation on Trial

For some, myself included, the announcement by BBC Scotland that they were going to undertake a formal investigation into the circumstances leading to the current furore with their reporter Jim Spence, came as something of a surprise. I use the word surprise because in committing themselves to such a course of action, BBC Scotland are very much putting themselves on trial.

I wonder if myself or any of the thousands of other Rangers fans who several months ago on BBC Sportsound heard the aforementioned Jim Spence declare “I don’t care what the Rangers fans say – this is a new club” will be cited as witnesses in this investigation ? Of course there is no need – it’s all there in the BBC Scotland archives.

Funnily enough on this point I agree with part of what Spence says. It doesn’t really matter what the Rangers support say about this matter – we have neither the authority or legal expertise to pass conclusive and objective opinion. Neither does Jim Spence for that matter – his job is to report the conclusions of those who do possess such authority and expertise. The fact he has failed to do so represents  considerable professional failings on his part (which are compounded considerably by the fact his own employers have previously reported on Lord Nimmo Smith’s legal conclusions and the SFA’s decision to transfer licence)

But before a very vigilant Rangers support BBC Scotland’s investigative process and its conclusions will be subject to the closest of scrutiny. The corporations standing not only with our support, but the club itself, is at an all time low, and I would hazard a guess that the widespread animosity shown by BBC Scotland in the last few years towards Rangers has been a contributory factor in the lack of confidence Scots have in the corporation. I’m not for a minute suggesting there is sympathy for us by non-Rangers Scots, just that a club with a support the size Rangers have means that any survey of Scots society would result in a fair number who cast a favourable eye towards Ibrox being surveyed.

But its more that BBC Scotland’s popularity which is on trial. It’s journalistic integrity is in the dock, the very heart and soul of the press and media is going to be subjected to the closest of forensic examination. For a regional corporation already lagging behind its peers in terms of public confidence this could well be a watershed.

And it should come as no surprise that it will be far more than just the Rangers support maintaining a watching brief on events. For the BBC Trust who have already had cause to intercede in this battle between the Rangers support and BBC Scotland there will be both a sense of foreboding  and déjà vu. For barely a year has passed since the BBC were savaged for their failures in light of the Jimmy Savile scandal. Both their investigative processes and their ability to challenge the behaviour of one of their employees has caused the corporation massive damage. Some suggest perhaps fatal damage. The true extent cannot be gauged however until politicians sit down to discuss whether the corporation should be awarded the right to demand a licence and the subsequent public reaction to this. The problem for the BBC is that politicians have a tendency to do what is popular with voters rather than what is necessarily the right thing to do.

And whilst the Leveson enquiry dealt with the behaviour of the written press it nevertheless has resulted in considerable change across the entire spectrum of the press and media irrespective of whether it is the written or spoken word.

And what of the individual who was the catalyst to all this ? Is he displaying remorse or regret for the position he has forced his employers into ? Regretfully not instead he is busy playing to the gallery of “usual suspects – that intrepid band of Rangers hating individuals who just happen for convenience sake to carry an NUJ card – and have been too happy to squeal about “abuse of journalists” and “freedom of speech”.(It is entirely co-incidental of course that this group only make an appearance when a journalist is challenged about anti-Rangers rhetoric)

But let’s stick with the word abuse here because it is pivotal to this whole debate. It appears the fact that the truth has been abused seems, sadly, to be of little consequence to many.

But for those of us who wish to protect and maintain the ethos of a BBC whose accuracy and impartiality once earned world renown, perhaps the gravest abuse in all of this is a maverick journalist using the BBC as a platform to espouse not only his disdain for a football club – but expressing that disdain in a manner which is both inaccurate and misleading.