Intrigue in competition to produce Channel 4 racing

Channel 4 may have secured the rights for terrestrial television coverage of racing over the next four years, but there’s a real soap opera intrigue over who will handle the production of their broadcasts.

At the moment that’s handled by Highflyer Productions, who yesterday took the step of suspending two senior staff members from working on racing programmes for the foreseeable future. We can take that as meaning until Channel 4 awards the production contract.

Highflyer has alleged that Denise Large, a company director and Sophie Veats, who has produced The Morning Line since its revamp last year, have been connected to a bid from a rival company. It’s well known that both Sunset + Vine, who produced racing programmes for the BBC and IMG, the world’s largest independent sports production company, are keen to secure the contract.

Highflyer Chairman John Fairley said, “We are deeply involved in preparing what we hope will be a very strong bid for the new Channel 4 racing contract, covering the next four years. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves with Denise and Sophie, Highflyer felt it better for all sides that they should not work for us during the period of the tender.”

Channel 4 had no concerns that the decision to move Large and Veats off racing work would diminish the service they receive from Hightower. A spokesman said. “We are aware of the matter and are fully assured and confident of Highflyer’s ability to deliver the 2012 horseracing contract.”

With coverage of such prestigious events as the Grand National, Royal Ascot, the Derby and British Champions Day changing stables next year, Channel 4 is sure to be looking for some innovative ideas to keep its racing coverage moving forward. It is what the bids have to say in this area that will be a key factor in which organisation is successful.

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