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Beeb's argument for cuts is sad, mad and bad; COMMENT.

Byline: Tony Smurthwaite

FEWER, bigger, better, reckons the Beeb. How about sad, mad, bad?

When head of sport Roger Mosey says the BBC credo is to concentrate resources on sporting moments that bring the nation together is he thinking of the Japan Grand Prix, start time 5.30am?

When he buttresses his argument with the idea that Channel 4 has "significant terrestrial output" and there are "dedicated specialist channels" on Sky, it is time that the momentous decision on coverage of British racing was taken out of his hands. This is too important an issue to let lie, to say that it's too late to make a difference, or condemn, as some do, that the campaign against the cutbacks is simply a forum for malcontents.

Mosey's remarks are sad because they take little heed of the millions of people in Britain and Ireland who draw their racing interest - initial and ongoing - from the BBC.

Mad because they betray a lack of reason. Namely, a readiness to broadcast a narrative through the Flat season - Derby, Royal Ascot, King George, QEII - yet to show nothing more from the jumps season than the Grand National meeting, and nothing at all for the six months leading to Aintree.

Bad because of the Beeb's role as a reflector of, and servant to, British society. Yes, it's an old line, but unless the media have missed something seismic, the public service remit remains and the Beeb needs to be true to it. Maybe society is transforming faster than we care to acknowledge, but in the space of ten years BBC coverage of racing will have been cut by 82 per cent.

Unless there's no such thing as society, it ain't changed that much.

Statistics are not entirely the argument, but they can be a positive contributor. In the space of nine days more than 2,100 people have signed a petition on the Prime Minister's website to stop the cuts, pushing it into the top five of 235 'leisure and culture' petitions.

No one figure is likely to be the spark that persuades the BBC to change course. It will be word of mouth, force of personality, creative thinking, a word in the right place, persistent pressure. Keep pressing.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 16, 2009
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