'No more wall-to-wall racing' - C4 boss
Channel 4's racing output will feature an increased concentration on high-quality racing, its Head of Sport Jamie Aitchison has said.
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However that focus on the sport's showpiece events could come at the expense of small smaller tracks who may find that their terrestrially-televised coverage is cut.
Speaking ahead of the Racecourse Association's Showcase Awards, Aitchison admitted to racecourse managers that some tracks would lose coverage with the broadcaster keen to reduce the number of occasions racing will be shown from more than two courses.
But with 88 days of racing set to be covered and a further 62 editions of the Morning Line to be screened in 2013, Aitchison was understandably keen to emphasise the overall expansion of Channel 4's coverage of the sport.
"To some sports fans racing can look tatty and rough around the edges, where they expect really high-quality coverage," he said. "We are here to show the best racing and not pack our programmes with wall-to-wall coverage. Yes, we've lost a few fixtures, but our policy is that we don't want to dilute our best racing.
"What we will also be doing is broadcasting from wherever the biggest race of the day is. If it's Scottish National day, we'll be at Ayr. If it's Northumberland Plate day, we'll be at Newcastle."
Interestingly, Aitchison revealed that agreement had been sought with the British Horseracing Authority for the races screened on the Channel 4 Racing programme to go off at the same times each week.
"That might mean, for example, if we show four races and we are off the air at 4.15pm, the time of the fourth race will always be 3.50pm," he said. "We'll also be asking all racecourses to have your best race as the last one we show, which will enable us to build up to it."
Other initiatives to be introduced when the broadcaster's coverage of the sport moves under the care of production company IMG from the start of the New Year include a touch-screen table for analysis of form and race incidents and the introduction of a new portable 12-metre studio, the home of the analysts during the afternoon programme and a new home for the Morning Line.
Plans are also underway to improve winning-line camera angles and to allow the judge to announce photo finish results simultaneously on television and at the racecourse. "I could hardly believe it when I was watching the Grand National last year and Clare Balding was having to strain to hear the result over the public address system," said Aitchison.