Channel 4 relishing challenge
Channel 4's sports editor Jamie Aitchison has promised his team will not be afraid of confronting big issues when racing moves to his channel.
There is to be a major overhaul of the Channel 4 programme from a different production company, IMG Sports Media, when fixtures such as the Grand National and Derby move from the BBC in 2013.
Aitchison, who was speaking as part of the Leaders In Racing conference in London, led the station's successful production of the recent Paralympic Games and must find ways of increasing the popularity of the Sport of Kings.
"Racing is now with a broadcaster which can challenge perceptions and knows how to market to an audience," said Aitchison.
"We have carried out major market research which says you can't target the horse, it's got to be about the public and human heroes. To bring more people into racing, it has to be about the jockeys, the trainers and the stories."
Aitchison was part of a section of the conference and networking event called Hype, Buzz, Headlines and Crowds: Promotion in Racing and Competing in the Sports Market.
His biggest issue next year could be the National, which was again the subject of unfavourable newspaper and television headlines with the deaths of two more horses.
"As a channel, we deal with controversy and almost court it," he said. "We don't shy away. We're not scared of the National. For us, it's bring it on."
Another of the major industry figures was the new British Horseracing Authority chief executive Paul Bittar, who shared the stage with Horse Racing Ireland's chief executive officer Brian Kavanagh for Racing 2022: A Vision for the Industry.
As well as describing the current Levy system as a "complete anachronism" and a "relic from another era", Bittar made an interesting comment about the fixture list
"The fixture list will be considerably smaller in 2022 and in 10 years, there will be fewer people who are generally 'hobbyists' who will still be involved," he said.
Kavanagh hoped the Curragh's grandstand would finally be improved over the period.
While some of the smaller tracks have seen their facilities upgraded in recent years, and a new course at Dundalk has been constructed, the venue for all five Classics remains very outdated.
Plans have been in the pipeline for a number of years now, but there has been less talk since the economic crunch.
"We have world-class horses, jockeys, trainers and staff, but the same cannot be said for our racecourses," Kavanagh said.
"We need to kick on with our flagship courses and in particular the Curragh needs to redevelop in order to match the standard of its races and its racetrack."
Kavanagh hoped that over the next decade that Ireland would have a "world-class racecourse sector" although he noted with a smile that Irish success was not measured by Cheltenham Festival winners, rather than gross domestic product or any other economic measure.