Autoview Motorsport & Motoring

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

BBC stays silent on channel four F1 deal

F1 takes off in OZ

It's bad form to criticize the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and it kinda rankles me to do it. I mean the BBC produces a lot, an immense amount of top quality programming (both Radio & TV), news and information, via it's numerous channels, websites and information services, and I, for one, am a big fan.

As an avid follower of Formula 1, I was really pleased when the sport came back to the BBC in 2009, and the quality of the coverage, in fact the whole package, was really excellent. Then in July 2011, the BBC announced that it was breaking it's expensive Formula 1 contract - scheduled to run until 2013 - to share coverage with Sky.

Now, meaning no disrespect to Sky, who have dedicated a whole channel to F1 (I'm sure they will do a great job), this means that F1 fans will now have to pay £10 extra on top of their existing Sky subscription (assuming they have one!) if they wish to watch all the races live (BBC will show 10 Races live, Starting with the Chinese GP and including Monaco, Silverstone and the season-ending Brazilian GP). Here is what BBC Sports Editor Ben Gallop had to say about the deal when it was announced:

"The speculation is now over. This new arrangement extends the BBC's commitment to F1 by a further five years - our existing contract, which gave us exclusive rights in the UK, was due to expire in 2013. But of course it does mean our coverage will not be as comprehensive as it has been in recent years.

So why are we sharing the coverage with Sky when up to now it had just been us?
Ultimately, of course, decisions about which media organisations get the chance to broadcast F1 are taken by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 Management (FOM). But from the BBC's perspective the new set-up provided us with an opportunity to continue our association with this gripping sport, which has captured the imagination of our audiences since it returned to BBC screens in 2009, with viewing figures at a 10-year high this season.

And while our coverage from 2012 may not be as extensive as it has been up to now, the bare facts are that the BBC needs to save money. Given the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves, we believe this new deal offers the best outcome for licence-fee payers."

The F1 forums have been ablaze with comments and when news came through that Channel 4 had put in a bid to share F1 coverage with the BBC comments on the BBC's own website were vitriolic, and that's being polite! The BBC was silent, maybe ashamed, that it had to cut it's award-winning F1 coverage and hasn't answered the Channel 4 question, some commentators have speculated that it didn't want a rival terrestrial broadcaster involved with f1 - who knows?

A selection of Comments from the Daily Mail website:

Dear Duncan,

Have you watched the telly in the last week. I do not think that a lot of people have 4200 pounds lying around to pay for the next 7 years of F1 on PPV. The sports will suffer. And you sound a bit biased when you say that "Sky Sports deliver a stellar service for football, cricket and golf". More is not always better.

Posted by: Piet Boon | 08/11/2011 at 04:26 PM

The way the BBC went about this deal is a disgrace. They actively sought out Sky to ensure that F1 went to pay tv so that there wouldn't be direct competition from another FTA channel.

They then had the cheek to tell us fans that they were "absolutely delighted" with the deal, and that it is "in the interest of the license payer".

Ben Gallop get your head out of the sand and give us answers.

Posted by: Corbo | 08/11/2011 at 04:27 PM

The BBC spent licence payers' money when Channel 4 would and could have done F1 justice. Well done Ecclestone & Co winning more cash for F1 for a year or two, but the sport and the vast UK high tech industry that supports it will suffer. The BBC though appears to be hiding the upswell of anger that's been triggered by this change; if not 'hiding' the anger they are certainly not addressing it.

Posted by: Pedro | 08/11/2011 at 05:10 PM

So, it's just a sport, so what? well that's true, however Formula 1 is also an entire industry in this country particularly - Mclaren alone employ 1100 people!! and this innovative technological tour-de-force has been responsible for inspiring many brilliant engineers. Many of the advances in automotive safety & technology have been conceived, nutured and made viable, through F1. It impacts all our lives because the majority of us drive and those who don't will at some point be driven.

Where to now then?

Many of us don't wish to line Mr Murdoch's grubby pockets with our hard-earned cash, and it's unlikely that the sport will hit it's peak viewing figures any time in the near future. It's also feasible that young enthusiasts will not have the inspiration to seek out the technical challenges posed by F1, because they are unable to follow the sport. Personally, I will miss the BBC coverage, I think it hit a high note in 2011.

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