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C4 chief vows to act on criticism of new format
“CHANNEL 4 sports editor Jamie Aitchison has insisted the broadcaster is listening to criticism of its revamped racing output as he looked forward to “the most ambitious” Cheltenham Festival programming in the networks history.
“Not since Channel 4 replaced the BBC as the festival’s terrestrial home in 1995 will viewers have experienced such a major change in the televisions coverage of the meeting, that is being presented for the first time by Channel 4’s new lead anchor Clare Balding. She heads an IGM team that has this year taken over production from Highflyer.
“Along with Highflyer, John McCririck , John Francome and Derek Thompson have left Channel 4’s
squad, with Balding being joined by fellow former BBC colleagues Rishi Persad
and Mick Fitzgerald, plus Graham Cunningham. Former principal Cheltenham
presenter Alaistair Down also returns to Channel 4 in the role of essayist.
“Channel 4 will show 20 of the festival’s 27 races live, with daily afternoon coverage from 12.35pm to 4.15pm, supported byThe Morning Line and evening highlights. A record 39 cameras are being deployed across the course, most notably the Movie Bird Crane, a cinematic import whose vertical and horizontal movement is being positioned to provide dramatic shots from the inner of the final fence to the line.
“This is the first big test for us and we know that,” said Aitchison.
“The essential elements, namely great race coverage and quality features, will be the same. We understand what people want from
but the IMG coverage will look and feel slightly different, which it has to.
"Channel 4 did not win the rights to all racing's crown jewels on a manifesto of status quo. We don't want to change things for the sake of it but we do need to push things forward."
"By pushing things forward, Aitchison - who revealed Russell Brand and Alan Carr will be filming for Channel 4 at
volunteered that a portion of viewers have been left dissatisfied.
"We are aware that some people are not jumping up and down at our new coverage," he said. "What people had for a long time was a very settled team and a very settled product. They knew what to expect and people don't much like change, but we do need to listen to our viewers and Racing Post readers.
"As an example, we've changed our graphics following complaints, and although people have criticised our attempts to bring new technology we are still finding our way with it..
"It's a new team and I think they've started well. Individually they are clever people who are passionate abour racing, but when you put a new team together it's inevitable it will take time for the people to gel.
"By loosing someone like John Francome we have clearly lost some of the humour, but people also sometimes look at things with rose-tinted glasses. The Morning Line before IGM came along was not a laugh- a- minute every week and it certainly wasn't Morecombe and Wise.
We agree that what we're doing maybe now lacks a bit of spark, but we have faith in the guys we have chosen, we're very pleased with them and we're not going to make any knee-jerk reactions. There is now a lot of amazing material on screen. This is a long -term thing and we are in it for the good of the sport."
"Also contracted to cover racing until the end of 2016 is BBC Radio 5 live, who will cover all 27 races with the first 4 every day on 5 live Sports Extra.
"John Inverdale, joined for the first time by Thompson and jockey Andrew Thornton, will welcome listeners from 1.30pm until Thursday and from 1pm on Friday, while 5 live also has a special one-hour preview show tonight at 9pm.
"With Nick Luck working solely for Channel 4 this week , Lydia Hislop and Stewart Machin will present Racing UK's afternoon programs."