Bad Broadcasting

Today, being the first Tuesday in November, it was Melbourne Cup Day here is Australia. Touted as The Race that Stops a Nation, the Melbourne Cup is easily one of the biggest sporting events on the Australian calendar, with the state of Victoria given a public holiday, and the rest of the nation really not working very hard from about 1:30 onwards.

Our family, like so many others, pore over the racing pages, and become experts on betting for the day. We each have a small flutter, and stop to watch the race if we can. Having always been a horse-lover, I drool over the gleaming coats and rippling muscles of the horses,  taking in the beauty of the animals stretched in full gallop. My mother and I make judgements on the incredible (but not always in a good way) fashions and styles. My father grumps around complaining about how stupid it is…and then sits, glued to the TV for hours. We wait, we watch, we commiserate each other—because we really aren’t the experts on racing we think we are—and we watch the presentations before going back to our day.

This year would have been no different, and I had not planned on posting about the Cup at all, until I found out the fate of one of the horses. Halfway through the race French horse, Verema, fell back after snapping the cannon bone in her leg. Later, while the stable of winning mare, Fiorente celebrated, Verema was euthanised.

Now, while I’m sad that a horse died as a result of the race, and while I am passionately against the fact that they whip the horses, I’m not going to rant about how horse racing is dangerous and inhumane. As someone who willing supported the race by having a punt, it would be incredibly hypocritical of me. What I want to mention however, is the poor way in which Channel 7, the race broadcaster, handled the situation.

The winning stable was paraded across the screen and interviewed again and again, shots of the victorious moment were replayed at least a half-dozen times, and the winning jockey was even shown on screen during an interview, riding past the ominous green screens that go up after an accident on track. However, at no time during the hour of coverage we watched post-race, was it mentioned that one of the horses had not only not finished, but had been euthanised due to injury. For many across the nation (and around the world), the first news of Verema’s death was through social media, with both Twitter and Facebook in uproar at the lack of acknowledgement.

Understandably, Verema’s stable was incredibly upset at having to euthanise the horse. And, just as with the death of a family pet, the death of these horses for trainers, strappers, and all others involved in their care is a very personal and private affair. However, purely out of respect to the horse and her stable, it would have been prudent for the broadcaster to at least make mention of the situation that had occurred, particularly with it clearly being so visible within the live coverage. A simple aside would have been all that was needed to do justice to the effort and energy put in by all involved with Verema’s racing and care.

While I understand the argument that children may be watching the race, that seems a bogus excuse. Many of those same children watch the news at night with their parents, hearing and viewing much more damaging and violent things. To me, not making mention of the incident at all is not only an affront to the injured horse and her stable, but to the whole field. It makes it very clear that for Channel 7 the broadcast of the Cup is not about the race itself, but about the money to be made, and (to be blunt) the arses to kiss to ensure their hold on coverage for the following year. It shows disrespect to the racing community as a whole, as well as the Australian public, by assuming that the only thing of interest is the race victor. A disappointing view from one of our country’s leading broadcasters, and a sad ending for a valiant athlete.

RIP Varema.


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