4 May 2013

You couldn’t make it up: Rangers ban the BBC

No, I didn’t know. I had no warning. But yes, the very day after I wrote a blog attacking the Tracksuit Tyrants in big football clubs who think they can ban journalists with impunity…yes…Ibrox bans a journalist. In fact, they’ve banned an entire corporation. Your corporation too.

The latest victim of  the Petulant Tendency is not an individual at all but the BBC. Your BBC. Yes, Ibrox has come down with a bad case of Acquired Ferguson Sulk Syndrome and drummed the Corporation out of Govan.

The irony gets more delicious, as I understand that the man at the centre of implementing this fit of corporate childishness is none other than James Traynor, not so long ago a Glasgow journalist himself. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Channel 4 News has approached Rangers and Mr Traynor for a comment but none has been forthcoming so far.

I await news of the mass boycott of Ibrox from journalists over this. As I await it from Celtic Park, where another reporter is banned. As I await it at my own beloved St James’s Park, where the Telegraph’s Luke Edwards has been banned.

I will have a long wait. I also await the FA or SFA attempting some kind of action on this of any meaningful kind.

Freedom of speech is the freedom to hear things you do not like or agree with. If they are lies and malicious we have the most stringent defamation laws in the free(ish) world to deal with all of that.

In that light, a BBC Spokesperson said: “As a result of a story we ran yesterday (Friday), which we stand by and has subsequently been widely covered, we were told by Rangers we could not broadcast from Ibrox Stadium today and were asked to leave.”

‘Asked’ as in told.

The BBC puts serious amounts of money into football north and south of the border. Your money. Our money. Taxpayers’ money. This money is paid by dint of contract and it will be interesting to hear how this latest attack upon free speech and journalism by Rangers sits with the contractual obligations it has entered with our BBC.

BBC Scotland say: “Our contract is with the Scottish governing bodies and not directly with a club, so we don’t know how much money is allocated to the club.”

But our money clearly is allocated to Rangers FC via the BBC central contract. And equally clearly nobody thinks the Beeb just roll up of an afternoon and start plugging up for transmission without someone somewhere having a piece of paper setting out what rights are owed in this situation.

Tearing up those rights in a fit of pique by the oh-so-thin-skinned-of-Govan does not look like a sound legal strategy.

My guess is a newly invigorated BBC under a new director-general might just be interested in actually standing up for its rights on this one.

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