BBC Scotland's Jim Spence cleared by BBC Trust over Rangers comments
BBC Scotland sports presenter Jim Spence has been cleared by the BBC Trust over comments he made about Rangers last year.
Cleared: BBC Scotland presenter Jim Spence
The ruling followed an appeal by Rangers fans who were unhappy at an earlier decision from the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit that Spence did not breach accuracy guidelines after making a reference to “old club” Rangers.
In a BBC Scotland Sportsound broadcast in September discussing new additions to the Rangers board, Spence said: “John McLelland, who was chairman of the old club, some people will tell you the club, well the club that died, possibly coming back in terms of the new chairman.”
In the summer of 2012, Rangers Football Club was consigned to liquidation after creditors rejected a CVA proposal. A consortium then bought the assets of the club and set up a new entity which took on the Rangers name.
The comments sparked more than 400 complaints that Spence’s comments were “inaccurate and misleading”. However, the ECU’s ruling that the there was no breach of accuracy was backed by the BBC Trust, which stated in its ruling: “The Committee did not believe that evidence had been presented that would lead it to conclude that the output had breached the editorial guidelines.
“The Committee therefore decided that this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration.”
The ruling accepted that BBC Scotland’s editor of sport had swiftly apologised for any offence caused by Spence’s words and that the Editorial Complaints Unit had acknowledged that Spence’s comments “could have been phrased better”.
It concluded: “However, [the adviser] felt that it was clear to the listener from the outset of the discussion that the subject under consideration was the board of Rangers International Football Club plc, rather than footballing issues at the club.”
Spence reportedly came close to quitting his role at BBC Scotland after being subjected to a torrent of abuse on Twitter, email and through text in the aftermath of the broadcast. Police were brought in when he was abused in a Dundee street while out with his wife.
However, with the backing of BBC Scotland and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Spence remained in his position.
The incident prompted the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to call on Scottish authorities to bring those behind the threats to journalists to justice and called the events “unacceptable”.
A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: "We note the committee's findings."