Welcome to the News desk.
|Morning Line team seek to put news back at heart of Channel 4
| Racing's weekly
magazine programme will have a new look and a retooled format from next
So you watched
Channel 4's The Morning Line today. Did John Francome say: "You'd need to have
your head firmly lodged up your backside not to be thinking about backing Petit
Robin"? If not, then it seems he may be (even) more plainly spoken in rehearsal
than when on air.
It is Thursday
evening and, in Ascot's Panoramic Restaurant, the programme's regular
presenters have been going through the motions for almost nine hours. Some of
them are starting to play up a bit. When Tom Lee stands in for Kim Bailey, the
trainer who will be next week's special guest, the questions put to him are
decidedly more ribald than those the man himself is likely to face.
point is not, sadly, to prepare material that will actually be delivered live
but to road-test The Morning Line's new set and retooled format, which will
make their debuts at Cheltenham next Saturday. It is a very big deal for all
involved, not least because the show has never really had a set to speak of in
its 22 years, being filmed in whatever hospitality box gave the best view over
that day's host racecourse.
look, we are told, will be "contemporary", while the dominant colours are "cyan
and rust", the latter a dangerous choice for a programme sometimes accused of
being set in its ways.
Regular viewers will not have to contend with
anything so jarring as a change in the presenting line-up, which, if this
rehearsal is any guide, will remain exactly the same. John McCririck, whose
role in Channel 4's live coverage of the sport has been slashed in recent
years, will remain a regular on the cyan sofa and has been given his own
feature, Big Mac's Big Issue, a 90-second slot in which he will express
forceful opinions on the week's main topic. The word "rant" comes up a lot when
this is discussed.
Both McCririck and Nick Luck, the anchor presenter,
express enthusiasm for the emphasis which will be placed on news at the start
of each show. When the Morning Line began in 1989, it was required viewing for
punters wanting to know, for example, which horses were being backed in early
trading, but anyone with an internet connection can now monitor markets as
closely as they please, and pick up any breaking stories while they are about
The relaunched programme will attempt to make itself vital once
more by offering as much new information as the team can provide, as well as a
round-up of that week's story-lines. Each programme will feature a live,
in-depth interview with a jockey or trainer expected to have a major role in
that day's action, a Skype connection allowing them to be shown live as well as
Entertainment value will hopefully be provided by a raft of new
features, headed by "Matt Dawson's day in the life", in which the former rugby
international will seek fresh insights from a racing professional. The role of
Dawson, by no means an expert on this sport, will be "debunking myths,
explaining things and jargon-busting", according to Channel 4's racing
consultant, Andrew Thompson.
"It's vital that we don't do anything that
upsets that core audience, those people who've watched it, week in, week out,
for years," Thompson says. "We value those viewers more than anyone and they're
"But equally we will just try and widen it a little
bit because there are people who turn on who might have been slightly put off
by, perhaps, some of the jargon, perhaps the occasional in-joke. So it's about
To that end, a new strand ("Mac and Tanya's guide
to betting") will try to explain gambling for the uninitiated. No prior
knowledge is assumed; in week one, we will learn the difference between odds-on
There will also be a major effort to get viewers
involved, with email, Twitter and Facebook used to draw questions and comment
from the audience, while individual punters will get a chance to explain their
bets to camera.
If Thompson is right, the whole will amount to a
"unique and enjoyable blend of wit and wisdom", though there is still room for
a caveat. "We'll learn something from the first few weeks and that may lead to
one or two changes," he adds.
Back on the set, Francome asserts that
Master Minded would have won the King George. Spiky, form-based opinion, it
seems, will still have a home on the all-new Morning Line.