Wednesday, December 28, 2011

STV and Rangers: Love hurts

A rather anaemic press release on Rangers' website seems to have set the Twitter world all a-flutter.

The club will join with STV to explore "commercial" opportunities.

Two businesses, each negotiating their own challenges in a changing world, form a vague union that they hope will end profitably for both.

The very thought!

Given some of the stronger comments heading STV's way the commercial benefits from the deal might be offset by the negative perception it's creating in a divided city.

Scottish football largely fails to exploit online opportunities so a deal of this sort makes sense for the club. And while people rage about a biased national broadcaster - are the good folk of BBC Scotland enjoying a wry smile - we don't know if other clubs have been approached or if other announcements of partnerships are imminent.

Indeed STV might be cursing - does their own reticence to engage with the story speak volumes - that Rangers pushed this particular announcement out unilaterally.

My memory might be hazy but I'm not sure if can remember such gnashing off teeth when Sky TV became a shareholder in Leeds United.

Or when STV's parent company SMG got involved in a not wholly satisfactory dalliance with Hearts back in 1999. Make no mistake, if conflict of interest is your concern, then that deal at Tynecastle offered a far more troubling precedent than this latest venture.

But this is Glasgow and this is football so uproar, even while the full facts are still to be established, must surely follow.

And that's something that STV's commercial high heid yins should have predicted. That's what happens when you sup - however constructively, however fiscally sensibly - with someone else's devil.

What's troubled me more is the way that people have been so quick to throw into question the integrity of STV journalists.

STV's online coverage has been one of the success stories of Scottish football's hard transition to a digital age.

To see people - including some pontificating fellow journalists - immediately jump on STV's editorial staff and accuse them of now following an agenda or of following an agenda at some unspecified time in the future is a worry.

Obviously the accusers are chasing their own agenda - and largely I think the followers of forty Scottish league sides won't care - but it's another sign of how difficult the game is to cover in an age of over sensitive whining from all sides.

I don't know the details of the deal, I don't know the circumstances in which STV's editorial team found out that a deal had been struck with another arm of the organisation.

I've no doubt though that the guys that work there would be as concerned as anyone if this was going to impinge on their freedom to do their jobs.

This deal - if it's a one-off, if it's a wide ranging collaboration - may yet be a bad commercial move for STV.

But until we know exactly what's planned it seems unfair - it even seems unreasonably biased - to catch innocent reporters in the crossfire of a never ending game of Old Firm tit-for-tat.

The Scottish Football Blog blogathon took place in November in aid of Alzheimer Scotland and the Homeless World Cup. You can still donate to help two great causes.