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Diary - Tuesday 18 December 2007

18 December 2007

Yesterday Positive John Fenty was celebrating four victories in Town's last six games, but today he is reeling on the back of a heavy defeat at the hands of Ofcom and the BBC. A succession of spats with the local media culminated last year, you will remember, in a total breakdown of relations with Radio Humberside after the station baulked at paying the increased fee demanded by the club for commentary rights. Fenty then protested to the broadcasting regulator about several aspects of Humberside's coverage following the row and - in a ruling that casts doubt on the GTFC chairman's judgment at a critical time for the club on and off the pitch - Ofcom has thrown out his complaint on every count.

Let's look at the ruling in more detail. According to Ofcom's report (which can be downloaded here), Fenty alleged that after the row over the broadcast rights, Radio Humberside subjected GTFC to "a sustained bullying process" by "mounting a campaign of divisive, misleading, inaccurate and derogatory remarks" about the club. The chairman gave a number of examples, which can be summarised as follows, along with Ofcom's findings in each case.

1. Unbalanced coverage of the dispute over broadcast rights
Ofcom's verdict: "in its overall coverage, Ofcom considered that the BBC did in fact explain clearly the nature of the dispute, the background to it and the positions taken by the two parties to it. It was also made clear that the dispute was still going on between the parties. Listeners would therefore have been able to form their own opinion as to the merits of each side to the dispute and the coverage did not result in unfairness to the club in the broadcast programmes"

2. George Kerr criticising the quality and performances of the team
Ofcom's verdict: "remarks made about the club's players and performance were in keeping with the normal cut and thrust of sports coverage... At the time the remarks were made, the club had played seven games and won only one. Four games had been lost and two drawn. It was not surprising therefore that the possible reasons for this malaise were being explored... Ofcom found that the programme was not unfair to the club in this respect"

3. Reporting that Town had refused Humberside an interview with the manager
Ofcom's verdict: "as the club had informed the BBC that open and direct access to the club's chairman, manager and selected players would not be given to the station, it was not unfair for the station to report that the club had not allowed such access... Ofcom found no unfairness to the club in this respect"

4. Singling out Fenty for blocking an interview with John McDermott on his retirement
Ofcom's verdict: "a general denial of access to the BBC for one-to-one interviews with players was in place, for which Mr Fenty, as chairman of the club, was responsible. While he may not have specifically forbidden an interview with John McDermott, it was not unfair, in the circumstances, for the presenter to say that Mr Fenty had prevented the station from interviewing the retiring player... Ofcom found no unfairness to the club in these respects"

5. Calling Fenty a plonker
Ofcom's verdict: "Ofcom notes that the term used with reference to Mr Fenty and [sic.] was derogatory and offensive. This was unfair to him. However Ofcom noted that the BBC had accepted immediately that the remark was offensive and inappropriate. The BBC had broadcast an apology, the terms of which were discussed and agreed with Mr Fenty... Ofcom considered that the complaint had, in effect, been resolved by the BBC, and therefore found in the context of the subsequent broadcasts no unfairness resulted to Mr Fenty"

At the time of the Diary being published, no public statement had been made by GTFC in response to Ofcom's findings. To have your say email