The Royal Television Society brought together key industry professionals in Glasgow to discuss and open the debate: at a time of change, we look at the history, cultural impact and future of one of our longest TV brands. With the emmergence of satellite and digital channels how has Scotsport had to adapt in order to survive!
Given that hordes of Scottish fans are seemingly still resisting Setanta's overtures to take up the pay-per-view option, Scotsport SPL is effectively the only place for terrestrial viewers to catch up on the weekend's action.
Dr Raymond Boyle, head of department of Film and Media Studies (University of Stirling) chaired the debate which gave a platform for members of the public to voice opinions, ask questions and discuss the changes in how we perceive the mediated game. Speakers included Andrea Brownlie (Scottish TV), Jim Delahunt (Scotsport Presenter), Henry Eagles (Head of Sport STV), the legendary Archie Macpherson, David Archer(Director of Finance and Operations STV, member of Hearts Board), Graham Spiers (Journalist with The Herald) and Phil Differ (The Comedy Unit).
In the beginning not everyone in Scottish football was convinced that television would be good for the game. Archie recalled the fears of club chairman that television in football would kill attendances. He argued that this has been proved both right and wrong. It has helped those bigger clubs such as Celtic and Rangers, but has adversely affected the smaller clubs who have gained less coverage due to the continuing success of the Old Firm.
Graham Spiers also discussed the effect that television in football has had on print journalism.He described how television is now the master of the game and TV bosses are now emerging Governors of football, not the SPL. Because it is assumed that most readers have already seen the game on television the role of the print sports journalist has changed. A reporter has to assume that the reader has already seen the game on television and it is now the journalist's job to analyse the game and to pick out descriptive detail that live footage simply cannot. The rest of the panel agreed with Graham but also believed television's dominance of football has made for better reporting and that sports journalism has flourished in the last 15 years. Henry Eagles spoke about how the spectacle of the game now lends itself to better writing and broadsheets especially are cashing in on the fact that football fans want to read good analytical, opinionated writing.
Jim Delahunt made a very honest and interesting observation about the changes that have come about in sports presenting. He stated that in the past the story always was first priority but that now programmes such as Scotsport offer a range of approaches. The style and presentation of the show are often more important than the actual content. Archie talked about how he is saddened by the trivialisation of aspects of sport. David Archer agreed with this point of view: the market has no morality; football is now seen as entertainment and footballers are paid accordingly.
Despite all the changes that have occured in the past 50 years to the coverage of football, four weeks ago at 12:15am when the entire ITV audience was 750,000, the Scotsport audience counted for 250,000 of this. This is remarkable for such a late night slot. Because of the Setanta and SPL contract Scotsport will have to remain in this slot for the next 3 years as STV does not have permission to show highlights of the games till after midnight on a Sunday night. Unfortunately this leaves the ever important younger generation out of the picture forcing youngsters to support teams down South where they have the chance to watch highlight programmes on Saturday and Sunday time slots.
Where this leaves the legendary Scotsport only time will tell, but hopefully with a new and vibrant approach, boasting young, interesting presenters such as Sarah O'Flaherty and Julyan Sinclair assisting the well respected Jim Delahunt, Scotsport will remain a traditional focal point in the world of Scottish football.