BBC Radio 5 has signed a four-year deal with Racecourse Media Group, which secures radio coverage of many major meetings until 2016. The new contract comes into effect from this year’s Cheltenham Festival. For the first time, Radio 5 will broadcast live commentary on every race at the festival although for the later races each day you will need a digital radio to hear it.
The announcement also contained news of a major signing to replace Clare Balding, now heading up racing coverage on Channel 4. Derek Thompson comes in to conduct the post race interviews, and will be referred to by his name. The days of “Thommo” are over. Andrew Thornton, who won the 1998 Gold Cup on Cool Dawn, has also joined the team, along with Paralympic swimmer and experienced broadcaster Kate Grey.
In a press release this morning, Jonathon Wall, Acting Controller of BBC Radio 5 live said that the new contract “further demonstrates our commitment to racing.” That’s a really important statement in view of the recent loss of all television coverage of racing on BBC. Its significance is not just to the BBC itself, but demonstrates that racing still needs a strong connection with the national broadcaster.
Richard Fitzgerald, chief executive of Racecourse Media Group recognised this, saying, ““The BBC has been an outstanding partner in promoting British racing over the years and the sport looks forward to continuing this valued relationship, via the BBC’s radio, online and TV news coverage. We are delighted that BBC Radio and Online have increased its commitment to racing, and it is excellent news that every race from the Cheltenham Festival will be covered live by BBC Radio. The sport will undoubtedly benefit from more quality airtime throughout the year. BBC Radio 5 live is renowned for its clean production, clear presentation, incisive on-course reporting and stirring commentaries. We look forward to the team – along with the excellent BBC Sport website – conveying the excitement of all the big events, starting with next month’s Cheltenham Festival.”
With regulars Cornelius Lysaght and John Inverdale heading up coverage, John Hunt and Luke Harvey handling the commentary and an injection of new blood providing features, news and interviews, Cheltenham radio coverage is shaping up to paint the atmosphere and excitement of the Festival for anyone unable to watch.