Old Firm Debate

Well, Glasgow and Scottish football was all over the news yesterday after the Old Firm game on Wednesday night. Quite naturally, although some would argue that, apart from the rather unacceptable behaviour of Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist who had a bit of a square up at the end of the match, it was all just typical of a Celtic and Rangers fixture and nothing to get too excited about!

However, the football events on or off the pitch weren’t the topic of debate in our office yesterday – there is a first for everything!!

No, our discussion was sparked by the sensationalist reporting of the radio station we were listening to in the office, whose news reports throughout the day exaggerated the game’s events to the extent that what was said was inaccurate. Their accounts would have you believe that there had been “violence on the pitch”, a “half time bust up” and that the managers “came to blows” whereas the BBC, the Guardian and Sky Sports used less suggestive language referring to “an increasingly antagonising game” where there was a “tunnel confrontation” and the managers “clashed” or had a “spat”. Anyone who hadn’t seen the game would envisage quite a different game on the back of the word choice of this radio news.

And so we went on to debate whether it is the role of broadcasters to present news factually and responsibly. Television broadcasters don’t report news in a way which is misleading, suggestive or sensationalist. Do radio stations have the same responsibility? Or do they have the freedom to choose between a ‘broadsheet’ or ‘tabloid’ style of journalism? Is it helpful to report news in this manner given the existing tension between the two sets of Old Firm football supporters? Could we even go as far as say it is inflammatory?

Our guys (who never normally agree on anything when it comes to the Old Firm!) came to the conclusion that broadcasters should deliver news in a way which is factually accurate using a language which is neither suggestive or misleading. Unlike newspapers, where consumers have a choice of journalistic style and interpretative reporting, broadcasters have a responsibility not to choose words and expressions which could potentially fuel the fire.

And in case you think we should have been producing programmes and not discussing football at work, we work in the media and all agreed that it was a healthy and relevant debate!

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