Will Hill takes up the issue with BBC top dog

The British Broadcasting Corporation is at the centre of a growing dispute with British bookies over its proposed halving of UK racing coverage from 29 days in 2008 to only 14 in 2010, reports The Guardian newspaper.

Ralph Topping, the CEO of top British online and land gambling group,William Hill plc is apparently leading the charge, along with top jockey Tony McCoy, calling on the chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, to intervene.

In a letter to Sir Michael, Topping says: "I am writing to you to raise my disquiet about the BBC's reported plans for its coverage of UK racing. As the BBC Trust represents the interests of the licence fee-payer, I hope that you will feel able to intervene in this issue.

"I fully acknowledge that William Hill has a commercial interest in these plans. Terrestrial TV coverage increases the public's interest in racing and that has an impact for us as bookmakers. It is precisely because it is popular with a large number of your viewers who relish the chance of placing a bet and then watching their selections at home that the BBC should reconsider.

"The Corporation's coverage also encourages significant economic activity, whereby many companies sponsor race meetings and races and, indeed, it is one of the paramount considerations in the decision to sponsor."

Topping adds: "We appreciate that the BBC has to exercise choice over what sports it chooses to televise, but there is no doubt that it has a large and loyal following for racing and a long and proud tradition of covering the sport, which are set to be discarded."

The Guardian reports that jump racing would be hardest hit by the reduced BBC coverage, with no racing at all shown for six months between October and April.

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