BBC at risk of losing rights to the lottery

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The Independent Online

The BBC faces the threat of losing its flagship Saturday night National Lottery programme because Camelot thinks the production is too downmarket.

The BBC faces the threat of losing its flagship Saturday night National Lottery programme because Camelot thinks the production is too downmarket.

The current BBC contract runs until next year, at which time Camelot wants a shake-up in how the draws for its lottery games are televised.

In the meantime, the lottery company's chief executive, Dianne Thompson, will put pressure on the BBC to make the show less tacky.

The BBC has already responded to pressure from Camelot by putting Eamonn Holmes, who made his name as a GMTV presenter, in charge of the draw following Dale Winton, Philip Schofield and the former Arsenal and England footballer Ian Wright.

However, Camelot is still unhappy, and its criticisms will come as an embarrassment to Michael Grade, the BBC chairman, who was head of the lottery firm until last year.

It also comes at a particularly awkward time for the BBC, which was slated in the Green Paper on its future for being too populist. The government assessment of the future of the BBC called for it to stop chasing ratings and concentrate on producing distinctive, high-quality TV.

Camelot has been at odds with the the corporation about the number of programmes dedicated to the lottery. When the BBC first won the rights to show, the draw, which goes out at 7.50 on a Saturday night, was Camelot's only game; now there are six draw-based games. Three of these go out on the Saturday lottery programme, while the draw in the Euromillions games - which is pan-European - is shown on satellite channel Sky One.

Camelot wanted the BBC to show draws for another two games on daytime TV but the BBC refused.

Ofcom, the media and communications regulator, will consider the future of the National Lottery draws when it publishes its new broadcasting code in the next few weeks.

It is expected to back the idea of more than one broadcaster carrying the draws.

It is understood that ITV would be interested in taking the contract from the BBC, but would like to show the main draw at an earlier time. Channel 5 would also be interested in some games, but not in taking the entire contract.

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