For the first time in 40 years the BBC will not show the Irish Derby on television, this comes just a week after Radio Five Live dropped its early morning racing bulletin with Luke Harvey.
These latest developments are just the tip of the iceberg with racing coverage being constantly eroded. There is so little racing on BBC television that senior commentator Jim McGrath has returned to the racecourse commentators roster, just so he can keep his hand in.
Last April I was at a garden centre on Scottish Grand National day, come the appointed hour I went to my car to listen to the big race and what did I hear – football and it wasn’t even a decent game, some mid-division Premiership match – Five Live had deigned not to cover the race.
Of course the BBC still have the ‘crown jewels’ and, their coverage is excellent, which makes the neglect the remainder of the year all the more galling.
On radio decent coverage is given to the big festivals, having said that the late Peter Bromley must be turning in his grave at the standard of commentary. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost admiration for John Hunt as a commentator (even when there is a frenetic ending and he goes into overdrive), but he is not being allowed to commentate. Mid-race he has to hand over to some ‘expert’ for some ‘perceptive’ analysis – a technique taken from Channel 4. On TV this works because the viewer can still see the action, on radio a continuous commentary is required to ‘paint’ a picture of the race developing. Radio commentary is not the same as television commentary and it does not lend itself to fancy gimmicks. Peter Bromley and after him the excellent Lee McKenzie were able to paint a picture of the race developing, nowadays this is not possible due to the analysis.
The BBC is our national broadcaster, there are over 5 million racecourse visits every year, yet the BBC seems to treat the sport with contempt.
I like the BBC (I even worked for them once) but with their attitude to racing they don’t deserve to cherry pick the best racing – it grieves me to say this but if the BBC don’t improve their coverage of racing then I actually hope the ‘Crown Jewels’ go across to Channel 4.
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