January 2002

In praise of STV's 'Monday Night Live' (now sadly deceased). In criticism of the BBC's refusal to show live Scottish games in the rest of the UK (now altered, but for Old Firm derbies only). And how Sky viewers can access STV, Grampian and Border.



It might be thought easier to find Osama Bin Laden arguing with Lord Lucan on the deck of the Marie Celeste over whose turn it is to ride Shergar than to tune in to a football-based TV programme that doesn't insult your intelligence. But such a beast actually exists.

STV's 'Monday Night Live' is a pure joy to behold. No fancy gimmicks, no techno-babble, no sycophantic interviews, no mangling of the English language a la Charlie Nicholas. Just a host and two studio guests. Three talking heads spouting off in a studio for an hour. A format that is a throwback to the sixties. And it works - sometimes beautifully so.

And, as a bonus, Archie Gemmill's miracle goal against Holland in the 1978 World Cup is shown in the credits (twice) every week. Makes a change from having to watch a certain Wembley game from some twelve years beforehand every five minutes

For the uninitiated, MNL goes out on STV after the news so it can vary between 10.30-11.00. Host Jim Delahunt introduces current topics to studio regular Graeme Spiers of the Herald and one other guest. In recent weeks these have included Channel 4's Stuart Cosgrove and the doyen of Scottish football writers, the inimitable and irreplaceable Bob Crampsey.

Apart from the odd mistake like inviting on kiddies computer games-obsessive and all-round non-entity Dominik Diamond who thought it was a real hoot to throw things onto the pitch ( a week before Robbie Winters was struck by a coin), the show seldom fails to inform and entertain. Cosgrove showed that it is possible to be sarcastic AND humorous (Spiers will think twice before ever producing a hanky in public again) in a way that the idiotic Diamond could never be. Nor, for that matter, the pathetically unfunny Frank Skinner.

Still, I suppose that as a St Johnstone supporter, it's necessary for Cosgrove to possess a sense of the absurd.

Bob Crampsey used to save the day in the old Scotsport studio by coming on to deliver an unscripted live monologue on the Second Division promotion race or something equally unprepossessing every time the cameras failed (which was often) and end up captivating his audience with enthralling tales of the good old days at Queen's Park.

Age hasn't withered him. When Spiers talked about the venerable Bob as being old in a discussion on league reconstruction, Crampsey gently reminded him that in the period in question (the 1970s) that he (Crampsey) had merely been middle-aged.

As for the look on Delahunt's face when he thought that Crampsey was telling him that Jimmy Hill had died, as they debated the rights and wrongs of silences before matches, well it was absolutely priceless.

It really is impossible to put down in cyber-print just how good this show can be. Of course anyone based in Scotland can see it for themselves, but so now can anyone in the rest of the UK, Ireland or mainland Europe who possesses a Sky satellite dish and digibox ( see also article below). Here's how.

Press the services button on your remote control. Go to System set-up. Then to Add Channels. Now key in the following information:

Frequency: 10.906

Polarity: V

Symbol Rate: 22.000

FEC: 5/6

Perform a search and choose which of the ITV regions that come up ( in this instance Scottish, Grampian, Ulster and Channel Islands) you want to store. Store them all if you like. To watch them, press Services, then Other Channels, then the channel of your choice. Using slightly different settings it is possible to to store ALL ITV regions. Oddly enough if you are a customer of ITV Digital, you are unable to receive these channels.

If you don't have Sky Digital or live outside Europe and want to watch some intelligent football patter, then beg someone you know to send you a video in a compatible format.

Sky's own 'Inside Scottish Football' is a useful enough programme but it is very much Rolf Harris to MNL's Rembrandt.




When this writer first scrambled over the top of Hadrian's Wall nigh on thirty years ago, keeping in touch with Scottish football was a difficult task. Radio Scotland could be heard clearly about one minute in every five, a daily newspaper could only be bought if living close to a major railway station, the Sunday Mail and the Sunday Post could be obtained only if in possession of a map which highlighted specialist newsagents with pinpoint geographical accuracy, and even phone calls back home were subject to the Rice Krispies effect - snap, crackle and pop.

When Scotland beat Wales at Anfield to qualify for the Argentina World Cup (thanks be to the Hand of Jord), the Middlesbrough division of the Tartan Army had to hire a minibus and drive 120 miles north to get to a village past Berwick which had BBC Scotland reception.

Gradually, things got better. Teletext brought patchy match reports, but reports nonetheless. The Record, Herald and Scotsman became more readily available and satellite TV coverage was admittedly far superior to the much-loved memories of Arthur Montford.

Today, the Scot based in the rest of the UK, Ireland or mainland Europe has never had it so good. Digital TV brings live matches on a regular basis. Digital radio is so good that I can hear broadcasts far more clearly in Cornwall than I ever did living in the North-East of England. I can even have an early edition of a daily paper (the ones on sale at Glasgow Central at 8pm) delivered through my front door. And thanks again to digital TV, I can write this after watching Scotsport on STV.

For those further afield, the net has become a godsend. Newspapers, radio stations, club websites, online fanzines - all have proliferated in the digital age. The BBC in particular deserves praise for broadcasting every SPL match live since July 2000.

Yet that same BBC scores disastrous own goals with the handful of live games it covers domestically. These matches are shown on BBC1 Scotland and therefore can be watched by a Scottish-based audience only. There is no technical reason why satellite digital viewers elsewhere in the UK and Europe cannot receive this channel, but they don't. To compound matters, BBC2 Scotland CAN be accessed on satellite, yet the Beeb refuses to show its games on that channel. Why not? Do they think the viewer is too stupid to flick a switch? Or point a remote? All STV live games can be viewed, at no extra cost, by the satellite digital viewer.

The BBC has invested heavily in digital TV, recently launching two new children's channels which will provide an alternative to the couch potato fodder offered by the existing Americanised kids channels. BBC Knowledge has a superb range of programmes and I can even find a few kind words for BBC Choice (gives you the new Vic and Bob and lets you see EastEnders late). So this is not the bog-standard anti-BBC "why do they waste my licence money on this crap" rant that is all too sadly common. Just a plea to the football-loving (well, Man U anyway) Director-General Greg Dyke: either let BBC1 Scotland become available to digital viewers or move your Scottish games to BBC2 Scotland.<



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