BBC: Fees, discrimination and damaging Scottish football

Is the BBC discriminating against Scottish football? Laura Jones looks into the SPFL’s claims.

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The BBC TV licence is going to be under intense scrutiny over the coming year. The new Conservative government has appointed anti-licence fee MP John Whittingdale as Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. He once described the BBC licence fee as “worse than the poll tax” and has declared that it must be “tweaked” immediately.

Now I’m going to hold my hand up straight away and say that I am an unabashed fan of the BBC. I listen to their radio programmes on a daily basis, my first port of call for news is BBC online and News 24 and even as a kid I was always a Byker Grove girl over Press Gang. For the not so princely sum of £12.12 per month, I personally think I get my money’s worth but not everyone feels this ‘comfortable slippers’ feeling when they think of the BBC.

This week the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) accused the BBC of discriminating against Scottish football and “damaging the game” in Scotland. SPFL chairman Ralph Topping made the claim over the disparity of TV rights money between Scotland and England. Scottish football only receives around £1million while the Match of the Day English Premier League highlights receives £68m.

Topping believes that because the TV licence fee is public money it should be “more evenly split”.

So where is the line drawn between public service provider and commercial venture? If the BBC charge a mandatory fee for the whole TV watching population and even criminalises those that don’t pay, then maybe the SPFL have a point about investing the money more evenly.

A BBC spokesperson said that sports rights are “negotiated in line with prevailing market conditions and not according to population quotas.” It is a question of supply and demand and therefore, based on a commercial decision. If the BBC’s money was split evenly on a regional basis, Yorkshire would have as much claim as Scotland. Match of the Day would be airing Rotherham v Doncaster as well as Celtic v Caley Thistle. If this scenario happened the programming may not discriminate but would you still watch it?

I’m pretty sure the BBC would still be accused of bias whatever decision they made.

With Sky and BT both paying TV rights to Scottish football it’s hard to see that the BBC is solely responsible for damaging the financial future of the game north of the border. However, some notice does need to be paid when the host of Match of the Day is being paid double the amount of money the Scottish game is receiving.

Read more from Laura Jones here!

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