Heroes and Villains: Why our beloved game’s media men should be next under the microscope

By TuttiFruttiBusDriver

The decision to offer Dundee FC a place in the SPL appears to offer a welcome release from the maelstrom of committees, board meetings and legal chicanery that has consumed the thoughts of many during this dreich Scottish Summer of sport. It offers an opportunity for fans of all teams to focus on summer transfer windows, pre-season friendlies, and, perhaps, foster a wee bit of cautious optimism about what the season ahead may bring. Maybe the dust will settle a little and we can concentrate on the football.

However, while it is undoubtedly healthier to look forward with positivity to the new season, it is necessary to get several things in order if this is not to become yet another missed opportunity to address the parlous state of the game. There are many issues that need looked at from a change point of view, none more so than the role of BBC Scotland’s sport department going forward.

The now notorious inability of a vast rump of the Scottish football media to ask questions of David Murray for fear of being banished from the vineyards, private jets and oak-paneled offices is an embarrassment that will haunt many hacks for as long as they continue to eke out an existence in the media. Many key players at the BBC were not immune from this. Similarly when Craig Whyte emerged from the shadows (with a questionable CV to boot) the prevailing practice of parceling up PR-swill while avoiding asking difficult questions continued. On the evidence so far, and with a few notable exceptions as detailed below, Charles Green hasn’t exactly getting the roughest ride either.

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Chick Young and Jim Traynor – Purveyors of questionable coverage?

It is arguable that the senior management at BBC Scotland’s Sportsound conducts a fundamental and radical review of the makeup of their broadcasting team for the forthcoming season. While some have enhanced their reputations with an honest and even-handed approach to the protracted saga (Jim Spence and Richard Gordon spring to mind) others, such as the laughably lightweight Chick Young and the deliberate mendacious Jim Traynor are surely redundant. Young’s grasp of the story is weak and ineffectual. Traynor, meanwhile, has brought nothing to BBC Scotland’s sports output bar a hectoring, bullying, sneering, doom-mongering style that has many listeners reaching for the off-switch.

Traynor can write what he likes in his newspaper (which given the latest circulation figures appears to be living on borrowed time ) but I am sure many license-fee payers resent his views being rammed down their throats in the sake of ‘parity’ or ‘balance’. A slavish desire to see the status quo remain purely out of self-interest has been has main contribution to the debate. Surely this propagandist has no place in a key forum for debate on the issues going forward?

Jim Spence and Richard Gordon, conversely, are notable for the way that they have made room for nuanced arguments. They have focused on complex issues, have tried to make sense of wildly conflicting information and synthesize it into something meaningful for the listening audience. They’ve asked the difficult questions, engaged widely with fans on social media and largely understood that fans are now better informed, more connected, and, with worthwhile opinions (compare that to the loathing of ‘internet bampots’ that you get from Traynor).

It is vital that all those with an interest in the future of Scottish football ensure that the mainstream media charged with holding authorities to account ask the questions that we want asked and provide informed analysis/opinions. Where the pundits are not fulfilling that role then others must be offered the opportunity. Punditry should not be a job for life, it should be determined by an ability to ask the right questions, no matter how uncomfortable those may be, and, a demonstration of sound interpretation of events. The days of the two-dimensional Traynor autocrat or the sycophancy of Young are gone. While social media has radically altered the media landscape by increasing connections, relationships, and, the democratisation of information, it is important that those in charge of the BBC Scotland Sports department fulfill their commitment to serve in the public interest. Weak scrutiny has failed us in the past; it should not be allowed to happen again.