Story by Luke Ambler, Sport Journalism student
Journalism students were privy to an exclusive revelation when ITV’s controller of sport production, Mark Demuth, revealed that the company were in negotiations to bring live coverage of horse racing back to its channels from January 2017.
Not until the start of the New Year did the rest of Britain’s equine lovers discover that, with Channel 4’s deal expiring this year, ITV had in fact secured a contract.
Demuth said: “The rights are up for grabs. If racing wants a profile we have a good chance of getting it.”
Demuth shared his years of experience in print and broadcasting, declaring Brighton legend Lynam “the best” presenter he had worked with. Lynam’s knowledge of the subject was what Demuth most admired in the presenter – which he described as the most important asset he looked for in young journalists and broadcasters.
Students were also treated to an anecdote from Demuth’s proudest achievement, when the England v Uruguay 2014 World Cup game attracted 20 million viewers – even though the show only just made it to air following a tropical storm at ITV’s base on Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro.
Demuth accepted that ITV’s interest in racing was linked to the financial benefits that bookmakers would bring to broadcasting the sport. “If we didn’t have bookmakers, we wouldn’t have horse racing,” he said.
He also emphasised the importance of major live sport remaining free to the public, saying: “Those big moments need to be free to air.”
Demuth’s resounding message to aspiring journalists and broadcasters was to build a pool of contacts and keep individuality in their work.