'Also ran' Racing UK on course for £10m turnover

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MUSSELBURGH racecourse, which staged its biggest meeting of the year yesterday, is one of the 31 racecourse shareholders in television channel Racing UK, which was written off 12 months ago as an also-ran.

But the channel is marking its first anniversary with 30,000 subscribers - a significant advance on the initial target of 20,000 by the end of this year. Turnover is poised to hit 10m.

The channel launched on May 28 last year and has been available as a subscription service on satellite and cable since October. Bill Farnsworth, general manager at Musselburgh, said the shareholding racecourses, which include Ayr and Hamilton, had benefited from 2m in annual cost savings.

The cheery outlook contrasts with the drawn-out talks involving Channel Four and the racing industry over future financing. Channel Four says it will cease covering racing unless the industry can make good some of the 8m shortfall it incurs. The next C4 board meeting is believed to be crucial in determining the eventual outcome, and there could be an announcement as early as this week.

• TWO former tabloid editors are embarking on very different ventures this week. Piers Morgan, who was ousted from the Mirror after publishing fake Iraqi abuse pictures, is expected to close a 500,000 deal to buy Press Gazette - once the journalist industry bible.

Its owner Quantum has held an auction of the title and Morgan, who also edited the News of the World, along with publicity guru Matthew Freud, are expected to clinch the deal this week.

Both have strong reputations in the industry and are expected to ruffle feathers when they turn the title around, promising to make it sharper and more incisive. Its reputation has slipped - in recent months it has filled its pages with rehashed press releases.

David Montgomery, another former Mirror executive who also edited the News of the World, has just floated Mecom, a vehicle to invest in underperforming European media assets, which should mean he has rich pickings. It raised 45m on AIM. He is already working on a number of "live opportunities".

• FOR decades The Isle of Man has nurtured its reputation as a haven for tax-averse Brits and a refuge for those who think Victorian values are a bit on the lax side - the death penalty and corporal punishment were only abolished in 1993.

But now the island wants to shake off its backwards image to become the must-visit tourist destination of Europe. The self-governing island, almost equidistant from Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland, has appointed a marketing consultancy to re-brand its rain-sodden image.

It has hired Acanchi, a London-based marketing firm, to mastermind the transformation and is pumping thousands of pounds into the scheme, aimed at wooing both tourists and businesses to the virtues of Manx "uniqueness".

The objective of the project is to "enhance the island's rich culture and heritage and to further its sense of national identity".

The government has already started promoting the island as a movie location, and despite its reputation for speed - the annual TT motorsports festival starts this weekend - any car chase movies would be somewhat limited.

The island is only 30 miles long, so road movies would only be possible if they involved going around in a circle.

Contributors: Terry Murden and Rupert Steiner