18 October 2012

When Does Journalism Become Propaganda?

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

The process to purchase Rangers Football Club was one which was painfully lengthy and uncertain. We had the fans’ favourites such as The Blue Knights and Brian Kennedy but they faced stiff competition from the likes of Bill Miller, Bill Ng and of course Charles Green. In a final twist we also saw Walter Smith enter the bidding, backed by Jim McColl amongst others, but the man from Yorkshire and his consortium of investors eventually sealed the deal and became the proud new owners of our Scottish institution.

Since then Green has had to overcome a number of obstacles and challenges, particularly from the football authorities, while attempting to win over the Rangers support and convince them that he is indeed the right man for the job. He has been the media’s dream with quotes galore, never being short of an opinion, and his PR work at Ibrox has far exceeded anything we have witnessed in recent memory. He hasn’t been slow to challenge our detractors and has been quick to talk up anything that is good about our Club and supporters. Some will claim there are dark and sinister motives behind this apparent fa├žade however these have been groundless and without foundation, at least thus far.

While Charles Green tries to convey a positive image of Rangers FC, and who could blame him, there are others who seem intent on tarnishing our good name with deliberate and misleading propaganda. I recently blogged on Alex Thomson, one of the journalists who is certainly guilty of having an agenda in my opinion, and of course we all know of his connections with the prominent Rangers-hater from Donegal or “the man tarred with a sickening sectarian brush” as he now seems to be more commonly known.

Yesterday however saw a rather strange turn of events when BBC Scotland decided to give disgraced former-owner Craig Whyte a platform to defend himself and stutter and babble his way through some more ‘revelations’. This of course is the same man that the broadcaster had went to great lengths to discredit and confirm as a liar and even yesterday Chris McLaughlin, who conducted the interview, continued to question the truth, or lack thereof, in a number of statements made by Whyte.

This follows on from the recent furore that surrounded the BBC’s coverage and comments on Rangers Football Club and its manager, Ally McCoist, and it is certainly not the first time that their reporting has been called into question by many at Ibrox. A large number of Rangers fans are of the firm belief that there is a not-so-subtle agenda again their Club from the taxpayer-funded organisation and there is certainly more than enough evidence to give some credibility to such claims.

BBC Scotland also seem to have a rather strange and unusual habit of referring to a ‘new Rangers’ that was apparently formed by Charles Green. They are also of the belief that the ‘old Rangers’, of 1872, is to be liquidated when BDO eventually move in and carry out that process. Now, most of us are only too well aware of the diminishing standards in journalism in this country but such coverage is not negligent or ill-informed, it is very much deliberate and very well thought out.

The Court of Session previously identified both the Club and the company which operates it as two separate entities. This was again confirmed by Lord Nimmo Smith in his recent report on behalf of the Independent Commission which was instructed by the SPL to investigate Rangers’ alleged breach of rules. Forgive me if I choose to believe the legal verdicts of such individuals rather than the scribblings of a BBC Scotland reporter.

Lord Nimmo Smith described how a Club is capable of being transferred to a new operating company and continuing in its existence without any break to its timeline or without any new club being recognised. An example of this is Leeds United who hit financial difficulties previously. The Club was sold to a new operating company and allowed to participate in the league and stand as the same Leeds United who were formed in 1919. But hey, why let the facts get in the way?

The BBC were also curiously reluctant to add any balance to their interview with Craig Whyte, somewhat glossing over or completely ignoring replies from Charles Green and Duff & Phelps. To disregard the replies to allegations or comments made by Whyte, a man who has a history of telling tales and deceiving people, somewhat confirms either the appalling standards at the BBC or the blatant intent to tell whatever side of the story that suits them rather than the truth.

It is unfortunately to see an organisation such as BBC Scotland behave in a manner so unbefitting of their role in so much of their coverage of Rangers FC. An isolated incident could have been passed off as a mere mistake or simply poor journalism but the constant and relentless propaganda spewed by so many of its reporters reflects very badly on the rest of the company and does nothing but damage its reputation.

In my mind, Charles Green should address this issue as soon as possible and inform them that their reporting on our Club has not been acceptable or even accurate. Until such time as we see an improvement in their coverage and receive a full and unreserved apology then all possible cooperation should be withdrawn and the BBC should again be banned from Ibrox, if Green hasn’t already done this of course.

So much of modern football and the business of modern football is played out in the media spotlight. The intensity of the coverage has never been so focussed and we constantly see clubs and their officials using the press coverage to their advantage. It would be foolish to ignore an outlet which continues to peddle lies and portray our Club in a certain way, epitomised by the obvious lack of balance in their approach.

I would certainly be no worse off if the BBC were to stop receiving interviews or information from Rangers and its staff. I can only imagine that many fans would feel similarly.

It is really quite tragic to witness the current standards and behaviour of certain elements of BBC Scotland and sadly their credibility is fast plummeting to the same level of the bumbling buffoon that sat across from their senior football reporter yesterday.

Whyte described the Rangers’ financial disaster as a train that had crashed. The BBC had better hope that they have not set themselves on a collision course with Scotland’s biggest club and largest support. I can only see one winner.

Andy is the newly minted Deputy Editor of the CRO. He can be found on Twitter at @AMCKEL or via email: amckel@thecoplandroad.org