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Reds Mediawatch – Xmas Edition

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Second installment of our new column on TIA giving fans a weekly overview and critical analysis on the non-stop coverage of Liverpool FC in the media world.

What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Liverpool fans in the last 2 weeks… Unfortunately with more downs than ups results wise but a few positives have come out of recent activity surrounding the club namely the positive ‘clear the air’ talks involving Rafa and our American owners. Hopefully after the Man Utd game our dynamic duo from across the pond will see the need to strengthen our squad in Jan’s transfer window supporting Rafa’s requests especially with a centre back; possibly a winger and hopefully sealing Mascherano to permanent deal.

Predictably as usual the media (namely tabloid media) have been up to their usual mischief making and we have been swamped by a flood of speculative stories surrounding LFC virtually all of which have been dramatically dismissed by the club. Once again most of these are based in very little… if any fact. If you take on board some of what the media say about LFC it can be pretty depressing stuff week in week out, especially if like myself you have to analyse it! So after the last few results rather than depressing you all and at times stating the obvious I wanted to focus on highlighting some of the more positive media coverage surrounding the club & those outlets rather than solely focusing on some of the negative aspects.

But let’s get some of the negative out of the way first… Most of our negative coverage tends to be in the print media (dissecting that will take up a lot of my time in future columns no doubt). Also we seem to unfairly get it in the neck from some of the washed up ex-players who couldn’t make it in management yet now are masquerading as TV pundits who are suddenly oracles of the game spouting nonsense (yes I’m talking about Paul Merson in particular!). Their sensational comments are usually designed to get themselves attention, further TV appearances and there allegiances to their former clubs usually means that some of them can rarely if ever give an impartial point of view about some of there former rivals.

So talking about TV pundits and specifically some of the TV coverage on LFC I’ll start with ITV Champions League coverage of our Marseille game. Normally it’s of a very high standard but I was a little disappointed with ITV’s pre match coverage of the game. You would have thought they weren’t covering a British club and almost seemed to want us to lose. Likewise I was a little disappointed by some of the comments made by Andy Townsend (who I personally think is a good broadcaster both on TV & radio) both before and after the game, which were unbelievably harsh. The comment after the game that regardless of what happens rotation doesn’t work so he & some his media colleagues will not stop attacking him until Rafa stops rotating was unbelievable & a tad unprofessional! He may as well have said ‘me & my mates in the media are not gonna stop until we get our own way and run Rafa out of a job!’.

Bolo Zenden, Marseille and ITV

ZendenEqually as surprising was the interview given by a so-called former player of ours… Bolo (the clown) Zenden for whose respect dropped several notches in my eyes after his pre-match interview with ITV. It came across not just as sour grapes but also as behaviour not becoming of an ex-Red. He claimed that not only that Marseille were the favourites going into the game, that he knew our tactics would be negative & displayed how he thought we would play on a whiteboard! Also claimed that they would beat us convincingly while mischievously claiming that the players at Liverpool were disillusioned under Rafa and hated the rotation system. Not only were those disrespectful words rammed down his throat with a 4 nil thrashing on his home ground that could have been far more… You have to wonder whether Gerrard and the team saw the interview prior to kick off. I particularly loved the way Gerrard clattered him with a fair yet extremely strong challenge as well as his dramatic vanishing act at half time being hilariously subbed at 2 down after pretty much doing f**k all for most of the game! As for the gibberish spouted by Andy Townsend’s colleague Robbie Earle that didn’t surprise me at all.. How he is even on a station as big as ITV commenting on anything other than children’s programmes after his underwhelming playing career is beyond me! He isn’t much better as a pundit either’¦ shocking!

Sky Sports

Our good friends at Sky Sports and their sister channel Sky Sports News have once again drawn a picture of doom and gloom around Anfield. Their coverage after the Reading through to the Carling Cup match with Chelsea was predictable stuff. The editorial style of their Sky Sports News station is very tabloid like (almost like there scummy sister paper) & has gone down hill over the last few years. Production and content wise they are generally on point but there constant editorial focus on sporting events that are only broadcast on the Sky Sports network (even if its a dart competition or greyhound racing that no-one gives a toss about!) ruins the channel’s credibility when for example you barely acknowledge Joe Calazghe’s big fight due to it being on a rival station! Even at the time of writing this piece I saw Sky Sports News interviewing Rick Parry after the champs league draw asking him whether Rafa had a transfer embargo (5 days after he has already widely rubbished these reports) shows you what their editorial stance is as they look to sensationalise stories. As for Andy Gray’s comments on Sky Sports pre and post Man Utd… I’m not even going there this week… in with anger…. Out with love they say! There will be plenty of time for Gray bashing in 2008 I would hazard a guess!

On a more positive note I wanted to briefly touch on some of the more LFC-friendly media outlets. Now I’m not sure if any of you are the same but some of the anti-LFC garbage spouted on the TV & radio before the games gets a little jarring to say the least. To try and counter some of that negativity I always try and listen to the media outlets prior to the game that tends to be more positive in their coverage of the Reds.

In the last month when it has come to pre-match coverage of our games if I’m not lucky enough to grab a ticket to the match I’ll put the TV on split screen to LFC TV. I’ll watch the pre-game build up there then turn over to watch the game on whatever channel has the rights or listen to the commentary via the LFC website or on Radio City. On the subject of Radio City, John Aldridge does a good job on the station and talks a lot of sense in my opinion.

Liverpool FC TV

lfc_tv.jpgLFC TV in its 3 months on air has been a revelation since it launched. I have to admit I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever see an LFC TV channel’¦ but many of our dreams are now reality! Apart from the initial technical problems, which hampered the first couple of weeks, they have gone from strength to strength. From watching LFC TV almost religiously since its launch I think content as well as production wise they have really done an excellent job. Visually with the graphics etc the channel looks very sharp and I think the channel will definitely raise the bar in regards to club TV channels in 2008.

Some of the stand-out programming on the channel for me has to be the excellent John Barnes Show; the in-depth one to one interviews on ‘œ60 minutes with’¦’; interactive phone-in magazine programme ‘œThis Is Anfield’; LFC Now daily news bulletin as well as the detailed pre & post match coverage that features Reds legend Gary Gillespie amongst others chewing the fat over our latest displays on the field. This is just some of the quality programming that the station provides has been much needed after years of kicking the TV watching some of the shite that comes out Mr Gray’s mouth!

On another note I’m also enjoying the chance to look at some of the explosive future talent we have coming through the ranks at the club on the Academy shows as well as the live coverage of the Reserve games. It gives us as fans unprecedented access to our beloved club that we have never had before!

The only downside since the launch from my perspective was Pete McDowell leaving the station to go back to Radio City, as he was definitely the strongest presenter on LFC TV. I would love to see him back in TV soon as he potentially could have a bright future ahead of him in that career path. All in all the channel definitely gets the thumbs up from me and if your not a subscriber via Setanta or e-season ticket and call yourself an ardent fan’¦ then in my humble view your definitely missing out!

Setanta Sports

Finally talking of TV stations the eagerly awaited Setanta Sports News channel has finally launched at the end of November. At last after years of negative coverage on Sky Sports lapdog sister channel Sky Sports News they finally have some much needed competition! The angle for 24-hour rolling news outlet is it’s interactivity and the tagline is that puts the fans at the heart of the station. The channel has laid back approach in their presentation and have been on the whole largely been respectful in their coverage of the club and tend to weigh up their reports or comments from pundits or journalists with the views of the people via their ‘œfan correspondents’ to give a more balanced viewpoint which is definitely a refreshing take on things.

Football is definitely the focal point of this new venture and with ex-Red Nigel Spackman as well as King Kenny’s lovely daughter Kelly on the station’s line up of presenters & pundits it makes for positive viewing for Liverpool fans. The only down point about SSN from my perspective is Steve Claridge and some of his unsubstantiated comments/rants about LFC and Rafa during his weekend phone-in show on the station. Though to be fair even he had to take his hat off the other week when commenting on our performance in Marseille.

Some of the negative comments I have heard from some fans and media people is that station is a cheap knock-off version of Sky Sports News, which I think is a little harsh. Especially since the production company (ITN) launched the channel with just two months notice from its backers Setanta and Virgin Media. Also they are in a head to head battle with Sky Sports News for viewers which people forget has been on air for over ten years now and its gonna take them a while until there on a level playing field with Sky. To be fair since the launch of Setanta’s News service they have been punching above their weight and there has been day on day improvement content wise so obviously after 3 weeks there is still room for improvement. Maybe for some of the doubters similar to LFC TV’¦ try and critique the channel after 3 months rather than 3 weeks but from my point of view in the way they have covered the club to date it’s definitely a case of so far, so good!

Signing off here this is my last column for 2007 so I’ll see you on the other side in 2008’¦ Merry Crimbo to you and yours and best wishes for the New Year! Look out for some exclusive Q & A interviews with various execs and presenters from the world of TV; Radio and Press to give you a behind the scenes insight into some of the Media coverage not just on LFC but football & sports in general.

UPDATE: Prior to the time of writing and submitting this column there has been a much talked about article from Chris Bascombe in a well known Sunday tabloid newspaper. To touch on this briefly I’m a little concerned about the sensational stories coming out of that publication since the arrival of Mr Bascombe there. I don’t know him personally but like many others was a big fan of his work during his time @ Echo & Kop newspapers.

Now a few things come to mind’¦ Firstly why are there never any facts to back up these articles other than hearsay and conjecture. I know it can be difficult at times to reveal sources but this is getting beyond a joke! From reading the article it could be no more than pub talk or internet forum rumours. Secondly since his arrival at the said publication there has been a flurry of sensational stories surrounding the club in this tabloid rag and I would love to know whether Mr Bascombe’s words are being tampered with by editorial staff prior to print. Finally if there is any proof please present it, Mr Bascombe is a die hard Liverpool fan and I call for him to now reveal your sources’¦ time to put or shut up and bring the facts out into the open. If not stop dragging the clubs name through the dirt over rumour as whats done in the dark will come out in the light! I for one am getting a little tired of the non-stop media smear campaign around the club which is looking to destabilise possibly our best chance at title run in years. As open question to Mr Bascombe if you get a chance to read this I would like to know your motivation writing these articles if they proven not to be true? I felt sorry for you after the death threats and other hate that was thrown at you for taking this position’¦ but looking at it now it’s seems as if you have taken a bag of silver from the devil and sold your morals down the river. I sincerely hope there is some fact behind this most recent story or your credibility that you have built up over the years will be shot down in flames just like the tale of the little boy that cried wolf too many times’¦

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