19-23 June – Royal Ascot
If ever there was a damning dossier on the BBC’s TV racing coverage, or lack of it, it is the above schedule, copied and pasted from its website link.
I’d forgotten that, after the BBC Ascot coverage last Saturday, the next BBC televised racing will not be until the Welsh National meeting at Chepstow on December 27, which had itself been axed until being reprieved after something of a campaign. Then there’s no jumping at all until the Grand National meeting.
It’s such a shame because I remember the old days when the BBC occasionally used to show racing from such unlikely places as Bangor-on-Dee, Wetherby and Wincanton. The Bangor coverage is remembered mainly for Julian Wilson commentating on the races and telling viewers that the runners were passing the stands, only to remember and correct himself that there weren’t any stands.
Fast forward to 2011 and the BBC can’t even be bothered to cover high-quality jumps cards at Ascot any more. All credit to Channel 4 for taking them over. Not to mention Channel 4 showing one race from the Aintree meeting tomorrow (no BBC coverage). Shame Channel 4 couldn’t have taken a bit more of the Aintree card.
The BBC’s coverage is head and shoulders above that of Channel 4, leaving aside embarrassments such as the hopeless and talkative-but-tongue-tied Willie Carson, and is greatly strengthened by Clare Balding’s professionalism.
John Parrott and Gary Wiltshire are amazingly shallow and seem to think that grinning and gurning at the camera pass for constructive reporting from the betting ring. When they team up with Willie Carson, it’s beyond embarrassing.
We must remain grateful, in the face of the BBC cutbacks, that Channel 4 continues to show a wide range of meetings Saturday after Saturday. No doubt it won’t last for ever. The BBC may concentrate now on just the "crown jewels" but Channel 4 has demonstrated a continuing commitment that should be applauded.