MP fears Tour de France may be ‘hidden away’ on ITV4

Bradley Wiggins cycles out of the Rue du Rivoli followed by Mark Cavendish during the 20th stage of the 2012 Tour de France. Picture by AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
Bradley Wiggins cycles out of the Rue du Rivoli followed by Mark Cavendish during the 20th stage of the 2012 Tour de France. Picture by AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
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A Yorkshire MP is lobbying national TV bosses to give the visit of the Tour de France prime time coverage on ITV1.

Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley, wants assurances that the Grand Depart’s landmark arrival in Yorkshire is given maximum exposure by Tour de France rights-holder ITV rather than being “hidden away” on its lesser ITV4 channel.

In recent years coverage of the Tour de France has been broadcast on ITV4, which has a weekly audience of around 10.4m viewers – just a quarter of the weekly audience of ITV1.

Mr McCartney, who is vice chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups for both ITV and the Tour de France, has written a personal letter to the broadcaster’s chief executive Adam Crozier.

He told the YP: “I still think that although we are in the multi-channel world, people are still very much focussed on the main five channels.

“With Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins competing to win, it really does deserve due prominence on its main channel rather than being hidden away.”

In the letter Mr McCartney cited a recent ITV1 Sunday schedule, which saw repeats of the likes of All Star Family Fortunes and Miss Marple broadcast.

“We want the maximum benefit for Yorkshire but ITV can benefit as well. I want people around the whole of the UK and around the world to see how beautiful Yorkshire is,” he said.

“If people want to watch Dickinson’s Real Deal or Murder She Wrote they can go to ITV2.”

He also feels Le Tour’s Team Presentation at Leeds’ First Direct Arena should be prominently broadcast, along with the Cambridge to London stage three ride on July 7.

Mr McCartney, who lives close to sections of the stage two route through Holme Moss, claims his letter is backed by fellow MPs and is aimed at making the most of the opportunity to showcase the region as a venue for cycling tourism.

The Tour de France’s Yorkshire debut is now less than three months away. The world’s leading cyclists will ride from Leeds to Harrogate on July 5, before the York to Sheffield stage two the following day.

Event organisers claim the visit of Le Tour will bring a £100m economic boost to the region.

The ITV chief responded to Mr McCartney assuring that the MP “will be pleased with the range and diversity of the output”.

The YP understands that ongoing discussions between tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire and ITV have been productive up to this point, with Yorkshire Tour organisers pushing for prominent ITV1 coverage.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “We have for some time been engaged in very positive discussions with ITV and are continuing to do so regards broadcasting of Yorkshire’s Grand Depart.

“We are confident of a positive outcome for all concerned.”

Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council which is organising the event management of the Tour’s Yorkshire visit, has described the event as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase Leeds to the billions of eyes that will be watching around the world”.

Last year around 1.2m people watched the conclusion of the Tour de France live on ITV4 on July 21, which came second only in its 2013 ratings to a UEFA Europa League live football match that reached 1.7m people on March 14.

The channel is dubbed a “haven of sport and cult classics” providing coverage of Indian Premier League cricket, the Isle of Man TT, French Open tennis and Aviva Premiership rugby.

In September the broadcaster announced it had agreed a deal to show cycling’s showpiece until at least 2019.

An ITV spokesman said: “We are delighted to be the UK broadcast rights holder for this exciting international event and are looking forward to giving it the due prominence it deserves.

“Full details of our coverage will be announced in due course.”