Friday, January 08, 2016

TV times

Having been rather surprised that Nick Rust had been able to be pleased by the ambivalence of Ascot's response to the BHA's stance on ABPs (or feeling that maybe he just hadn't been able to understand what Ascot's convoluted 21st-century-speak press statement actually meant) I was pleased to read in yesterday's Racing Post that the ever-sensible Steve Dennis views the situation in the same light that I do.  In case you missed it, I quote Steve's words on the subject: "Ascot's stance on the ABP saga and its less-than-wholehearted support for British racing is simply not good enough.  If little Newton Abbot, Fakenham and Kelso can back the BHA in this way then it can't be too much to ask to expect Ascot (and York) to follow suit.  The Queen reads the Racing Post, she owns Ascot.  Perhaps she might have a quiet word with her employees on the subject."

It's not unrealistic to have hoped that all racecourses (after all, if ARC can, then Ascot can) might have fallen in with the BHA's plans on this one (not least because of the recent signing of the tri-partite agreement which seemed to suggest that the bodies would be singing from the same hymn-sheet - and it's a worry that they haven't).  You'd have hoped that the RCA would have brought them into line, but apparently not, and Ascot's corporate-speak has not been able to disguise its lack of support for the BHA - well, it hasn't been able to disguise it to Steve Dennis and to me, even if it has been able to pull the wool over Nick Rust's eyes.

On the subject of the RCA, I presume that it was the RCA who did the deal which has seen racing's terrestrial coverage set to be switched from Channel Four to ITV.  There has to be a collective agreement on this one (the racecourses couldn't have negotiated individually as one couldn't have had some signing a deal with one channel and others with another) so I presume that it was the RCA who decided to take the bigger offer which ITV was able to make rather than to stick with Channel Four, which has been a wonderful partner for the sport for 30 years, initially with Sunset & Vine, then with its Highflyer coverage and finally with the IMG productions.

That's the thing (and the Racing Post coverage has been disappointing, because it has given too many column inches to the drivel of the Highflyer crew who have been unjustifiably disparaging toward IMG, much to their discredit): Channel Four has always put on a good show, irrespective of which production company has been doing the work on its behalf, and irrespective of who has been fronting the show on the production company's behalf.  It will, I am sure, continue to be a good show when it's on ITV (1, 2, 3, 4 or whatever) but that doesn't alter the fact that it's been very good up to now.  I don't alway watch C4 Racing simply because I also have both ATR and RUK (and therein lies the clue to the declining viewing figures, simply because there is an ever-increasing list of alternatives) but I watched C4 on New Year's Day and it was excellent.

So, all in all, we don't need to get too uptight about who is producing and showing the show, because it will be good whoever does it, and whichever channel it is shown on.  There are, though, perhaps three points which we might make.  Firstly, the judgement of the Highflyer people should perhaps be questioned if they can't appreciate how good a job the IMG crew have been doing since they took over the contract. It's been disappointing that the Highflyer people have taken the opportunity to knock the more recent coverage, and disappointing that the Racing Post has abetted them in this respect by giving such prominence to their sour grapes.

Secondly, we haven't (or, rather, I haven't) found out whether ITV is going to show a Morning Line every Saturday - and if it isn't, we ought to be questioning whether it was a good move to sell the rights to ITV rather than to continue with the C4 deal, simply because the Morning Line is such an integral part of the overall coverage (notwithstanding that I rarely see it) and such a good promotional tool both for the coverage and for the sport that we should not have lost it.

The third point is a more general one.  If IMG have done anything wrong during the term of its contract, it has been to tell us what a genius it is.  Perhaps I'm being harsh on it here, and perhaps it wasn't its fault - but when IMG secured the contract, I got fed up with reading articles in the Racing Post that it was going to elevate the coverage of the sport to a higher level.  That was not possible: IMG has done a great job, but so did its predecessors and so will its successors.  It's not rocket-science, and any competent production company and any competent team of presenters can make this wonderful sport look wonderful.

There's no better way of setting oneself up for a fall than by telling the world that one is a genius (as the Greeks understood when inventing the word 'hubris', and as Godolphin have discovered to their cost over the past 20 years) and if IMG has done anything wrong, it was to allow the myth to get about in the first place that it was in a class of its own.  But that's been its only mistake, and to criticise it for the great shows which it and its team of excellent presenters have been putting on in recent years is nonsense.

As regards the illustrations of this chapter, we had a truly dreadful day yesterday (or a truly dreadful morning, anyway) when the rain kept tumbling down, but today was a real joy.  I tried to take some photographs during first lot when the sun was getting ready to come up and when we had a lovely clear sky overhead with a thin slither of new moon high in the sky, but (although the visibility was relatively good, in contrast to yesterday when you could hardly see your horses ears during first lot) there was not enough light for the photographs to come out well.  There were no such problems during second lot, though, when we cantered up Long Hill with Hannah riding Koreen, Jana riding Cottesloe and me riding Roy.  That's when I took these photographs, and it was truly splendid.


neil kearns said...

You have hit the nail on the head in the midst of your comments on the change of TV coverage that you don't watch Channel 4 as you have ATR and Racing UK and presumably switch to watch all the races rather than just the C4 selected . In this day and age most people who have an interest in a particular sport will find it covered on what one could call a specialist outlet

The change of broadcaster is likely to have zero effect on the audience as the terrestrial broadcasters audiences are dropping off in all spheres eg the TV event which was Downton Abbey's finale had about 7 million viewers back in the day half the population would have watched the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show , I feel a similar effect is in place with all terrestrial broadcasts both sporting and dramatic . Unfortunately for those who wish to "reach a wider audience" it won't happen regardless of who the production company is as territorial TV is no longer the go to platform for this wider audience

I feel your most interesting comment is the Morning Line question if this or a similar programme is not available to terrestrial punters (in particular) I think that the authorities will find they see a reduction in betting activity which will mean they really have shot themselves very squarely between the eyes

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