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Highflyer chief refuses tor ule out legal action.

Byline: Graham Green

John Fairley, the driving force behind Bafta-winning highflyer Productions, last night did not rule out the possibility of a legal challenge following the company's failure to land Channel 4's new four-year contract that commences on January 1. highflyer, which has produced the commercial broadcaster's racing output for 28 years, lost out, along with rivals Sunset+Vine, in a tender process won by newcomers to the sport iMG Sports Media.

a clearly dismayed Fairley said: "We are very disappointed not to have been awarded the contract and are very concerned about the whole process. Channel 4 could credibly have bid for racing's [exclusive terrestrial] rights in the first place only because of what highflyer has done.

"There should have been a much fairer approach and there will be a meeting tomorrow to decide what our response is going to be."

asked if a legal challenge could be among the options, Fairley replied: "anything is possible.

"The main concern is the large number of loyal and, we think, talented employees, both in front and behind the camera, whose futures might be jeopardised."

one popular personality almost certain to disappear from Channel 4's coverage is John Francome, who, out of loyalty to highflyer's long-serving executive producer, andrew Franklin, says he would not be interested if iMG wished to employ his services.

The former champion jump jockey said: "it's disappointing andrew has made a programme on the back of which racing has decided to hand over exclusive rights to Channel 4 and he doesn't get the chance to produce the likes of royal ascot and the Grand national.

"at the end of the day there is nothing you can do about it, there is no use crying, you have to move on, but andrew knows racing inside out and he is much too bright and much too energetic to be lost to the sport.

"i don't know about the other presenters, but it will leave me riding out second lot for Clive Cox. i have worked for andrew for somewhere around 27 years. it is just how you are, i stayed with Fred Winter for 15 years from leaving school, and i will move on and find something else.

i won't be part of any new team if they ask me."

Betting guru John McCririck, however, would leap at the opportunity of continuing his Channel 4 career if offered the opportunity.

McCririck said: "if anybody offers me a job i'll take it because i want to go on working. i am sorry highflyer has lost the contract, i have worked with them since 1981, but i had no part in the bidding process and clearly the suits have decided on iMG and i wish them the best of luck. if they offer me a job, i'll be there and pleased to take it, but is entirely up to them."

alastair Down said: "The new four-year TV contract is hugely important for racing and perhaps the time has come for some fresh ideas and some new brains doing the input.

"racing owes a massive debt to andrew Franklin, who has changed the whole public perception of the sport and done us all in the industry sterling service for well over 20 years. his contribution can't be underestimated.

"i wish all those involved in the new venture the best of luck. These things happen and you have to take them on the chin or, in my case, chins."

nick luck said: "i have been lucky enough to work for highflyer - first through racing UK and latterly through Channel 4 racing - for nearly a decade and i am incredibly grateful for the many opportunities andrew Franklin and John Fairley have given me as part of a hard-working, committed and - above all - very friendly team.

"i am particularly proud of what we have achieved together in moving The Morning line forward over the last couple of years. i am looking forward to 2013 with great optimism for the sport as a whole and for the potential that iMG's coverage brings."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 14, 2012
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