Mark Johnston: strong views about TV coverage and promotion of racing
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
CHANNEL 4 RACING’s critics have accused it of not being entertaining enough but there was nothing lacking about a riveting clash between trainer Mark Johnston and presenter Graham Cunningham on Saturday’s Morning Line.
The spirited exchange focused on comments Johnston made in the Racing Post recently, arguing for terrestrial TV coverage to drop all betting content.
Johnston reiterated his points, arguing that ITV, which takes over terrestrial coverage from next year, need to adopt a completely different approach to broadcasting racing if it wanted to halt the “slide of viewing figures”.
He said: “I’m not an expert on the early history of racing but I’m not convinced that a bet came into it – of course it was, ‘is my horse better than yours’, but it wasn’t about betting […] that aside, I’m not saying stop betting, I’m saying stop all the coverage of it, stop having people like you talking about nothing but betting.”
He added: “I believe you have to interest more people on the sport and promote an opinion, they should have their own opinion on the sport.”
‘More holes than a string vest’
Cunningham said: “I think some of your logic has more holes than a string vest. It is fundamental to the sport, betting, it’s how the sport started. Jeffrey Bernard, the famous old debauched racing journalist, once said that saying racing isn’t about betting is like saying dancing isn’t about sex – the two are completely inextricably linked.”
Johnston also again criticised the way he believes racing is promoted, often as a social day out or with live music forming part of the raceday.
He said: “The racecourse and the media are at the forefront of promoting racing and we’re actually getting deeper into the stereotype that men go racing to drink and bet and women go racing to dress up, drink and listen to music. I think that’s very sad, we’re getting further and further away from the racing.
“I was at Newbury the other week and behind the stands for the first five races you couldn’t move, by the last race you couldn’t move in front of the stand as they’d moved round there waiting for the music. They’re not watching racing.”
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