The BBC’s coverage of the John Smith’s Grand National has become much more of a ‘people’s event’ over the past few years. The corporation does a fine job of informing and entertaining; a tough recipe to get right given the mix of highly knowledgeable fans and the once-a-year punters who form the vast majority.
Given racing’s ambitions to attract more people to the sport, I suspect that the BBC’s post-race analysis does those ambitions no favours.
Big broadcasters are pretty damn proud of the power of their software, and editors seem especially keen to highlight the ‘benefits’ of super-slow-motion. Somersaulting horses, spilling brightly-silked jockeys across the Liverpool turf, is, I admit, very hard to resist from a drama viewpoint. And no doubt many watch these shock and awe slowmo re-runs with that fascination that compels human beings to ‘rubber-neck’ at road accidents and street fights.
But, when the credits roll, how many once-a-year fans will be left with the impression that this is a fine sport at which to spend a day out? Not a lot, I suspect.
Maybe the BHA has some figures. Is there any noticeable upsurge in racecourse attendances in the weeks after the National? Have surveys ever been done to test the effect Grand National coverage has on the image of the sport in general?
I accept that people want to know ‘where your money went’. But couldn’t the BBC utilise its brilliant technology in creating an entertaining virtual re-run offering a much ‘softer’ summary of where horses left the race? Keep the live footage for all the best bits of the race and show them as often, and from as many angles as you like, but please, BBC, stop concentrating on replays of fallers.
Show them once, if you must, at normal speed. Frustrating as this might be to your ‘creatives’, you’d be doing the racing industry a considerable service.