Monday, 5 November 2012

Wednesday Night* is Champions League Night (for some)!

* - not available in Scotland.

On Wednesday night, I'm going to sit on my sofa and watch Scotland's soccer champions, Celtic, take on the best team in the world, the Catalan icons of Barcelona in the Champions League. I'll pad to the kettle in my slippers to get another cup of tea as the greatest-ever player, Lionel Messi, struts his stuff. I'll dash to the freezer to grab an ice pole as Giorgios Samaras leaves the Argentine watching in open-mouthed jealousy at his panache, his skill, and his lustrous hair and beard.

And because the match is live on RTÉ Two, I won't have to either pay heaps of money (the cheapest Sky Sports subscription here is €46,50/month, or €558 per year - plus I'd have to get Éircom to install a phone line, so there's a line rental charge too of €20,96/month, bringing my grand total €809,52 per annum to watch Celtic's Champions League games) to Rupert Murdoch, or nip out to the pub (I'd probably be as cheap actually going to the match, Heaven forbid!).

If you're in Scotland, however, the nation which enters Celtic into the Champions League (Celtic is the only Scottish club in existence which has ever qualified for the Champions League: Motherwell and Hearts have both lost in qualifiers) you can't do that, because STV isn't allowed to broadcast the match.

Because the UEFA only sells its Champions League packages in terms of geographical states, STV cannot opt out and show another game from ITV, despite being independently (or separately, if you're the despicable liar Margaret Curran) owned, serving an entirely different nation, serving an entirely different soccer structure, not broadcasting outside Scotland (or in much of it), and the Scottish club's game clearly being of more interest to its audience. 

ITV has the right to broadcast a match on Tuesday (and as long as there are English teams in the competition, they'll naturally, and quite appropriately, show them ahead of a Scottish team), and not a Wednesday. That's Sky's night. 

But here, TV3 has tonight's game between Manchester and Ajax, while RTÉ will broadcast the Celtic game tomorrow. Why can't STV do the same?

Because Uefa only sell packages to states, STV wouldn't be competing against Scottish broadcasters to show games within Scotland, they have to compete against UK broadcasters - with far more revenue. 

It's completely unfair, and they haven't a chance of succeeding.

You're either paying money to Rupert and the lads, or you're down to the pub. If you can't afford Sky, or you can't afford to go to the pub, well, piss off, peasant, the Champions League isn't for you. This is Britain, you know. We can't have some sort of something for nothing society, can we, Johann?

Now, STV serves 3.849.000 people. RTÉ serves slightly fewer than 4.588.000 people. These two broadcaster, which serve very similar cultures and audiences, are entirely different from ITV1, which serves many millions of people in England, Wales and the Borders. 

ITV1 will never show a Scottish team live ahead of an English team. Why would they? They're an English broadcaster. They cater to their audience. 

But it's only with independence that STV can cater to their audience. 

Scotland - like England, like Germany, like the Netherlands, like Greece and Turkey, like Denmark and Italy - deserves to see its Champion club represent our country on our own television screens. Maybe not every game live in glorious technicolour, but to have a complete ban on our country's Champions League games is an atrocious reminder of the inequalities of the Union. 

A puppy, yesterday. It has nothing to do with this post, I just thought it was nice
It's these little inequalities which seem into the minds of the man on the street - the breadline pensioner who won't be able to see his team playing the world's greatest; the children who won't be inspired by seeing Scotland's champions taking on Barcelona because they can't go to the pub, can they? - which will make people think "hold on, how can we be Better Together when we get nothing from it?".

They'll ask themselves why, almost unique amongst the nations of Europe, they can almost never watch their national team play (the BBC seemed to find a great deal of money, however, to show England matches for a generation or more; every Ireland match is live on RTÉ, every Germany match on ARD or ZDF). 

They'll perhaps ask themselves why their national broadcaster, the BBC, almost entirely ignored the Scottish governing party's conference, but gave hours to American politics. 

Maybe they'll even ask themselves why Scotland is forbidden to take part in the Eurovision song contest, when STV is a part of the European Broadcasting Union.

This evening, two major political events occurred. The Americans finished the last day of campaigning before this bloody interminable election happens; and there was a major debate - indeed, a Big Debate - involving master debater Willie Rennie, on the constitutional future of Scotland. One of those was available online. 

It wasn't Scotland that Scotland's state broadcaster was interested in.

Not being able to watch Celtic take on Barcelona won't in itself swing any votes - but it's another little thing, another little story, another nagging doubt in the mind of the undecided voter.

Broadcasting is one of the many little nagging issues in which Scotsmen and Scotswomen know instinctively they are unfairly treated by dint of being part of this unequal, intolerable Union, which is no longer fit for purpose

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