The BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit has issued a provisional ruling that BBC Scotland Sportsound presenter Jim Spence did not breach accuracy guidelines after making a reference to “old club” Rangers.
More than 400 complaints were made about the sports pundit after he made reference to “the old club” and “the club that died” during a discussion on Sportsound about the board of The Rangers International Football Club plc.
The ECU said the majority of complainants said Spence’s comments were “inaccurate and misleading” and referenced a BBC Trust decision in June that ruled the terms “old” and “new” when used to describe Rangers Football Club were inaccurate.
However, the ECU said that the BBC Trust ruling made a distinction between matters on and off the field and ruled that the discussion on Sportsound related to company, not footballing matters, and therefore did not breach guidelines.
“For these reasons, we came to the provisional view that Mr Spence’s comments did not fall foul of the requirements for due accuracy set out in the Committee’s finding,” said the ECU.
“We also came to the provisional view that the factors which limited the possibility of misunderstanding also tended to limit the scope for offence, and that there was no breach of editorial standards in either respect.”
The ECU added that complaints about alleged bias on Spence’s part were not upheld.
The incident sparked a series of events which reportedly left Spence on the brink of taking voluntary redundancy after receiving “vile” email, texts and abuse on social media.
The events prompted the NUJ in Scotland to get involved on Spence’s behalf and the International Federation of Journalists condemned the alleged intimidation tactics towards the sports commentator.
Complainants now have an opportunity to respond to the provisional finding before it is finalised on 17 October.