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More insight on the BBC F1 plans
Posted By:   |  25 Feb 2009   |  9:33 am GMT  |  27 comments

Interesting response to the BBC package announced yesterday. Quite a few people think “The Chain” is a retrograde step. Andrew Baker in the Telegraph is positively evangelistic about it, reckons it’s the greatest theme music ever in a proud BBC tradition of theme tunes. I quite liked the tune to Horse of the Year show, but that’s by the by…

Quite a few of you are wondering about the use of archive footage. The standard deal is that you can use anything up to 10 years previous as part of the package. Anything before that and you have to pay extra. BBC may well have negotiated a different deal from that, Bernie does all kinds of individual deals with different broadcasters, but as the Beeb haven’t mentioned archive in any of their press materials, it doesn’t seem that it was a big priority. I know that they were much more keen to get the interactive offering the best it could be.

Anything pre 1981 is pre FOM anyway, so if you can source it, you can show it.

There are some mixed vibes coming from the newspaper men. It’s always odd for journalists to interview other journalists, but The Times has already gone for the new presenter, Jake Humphreys and thinks the public will follow,

“The biggest gamble is Jake Humphrey in the main presenting role. The corporation believes that the former children’s programme presenter is a star in the making, but others are yet to be convinced that he is sufficiently “heavyweight” for the role, ” says Ed Gorman.

Jake is very ambitious, but he is going to be really tested in this role. I wouldn’t want to be presenting a sport I’d never done before, which is hugely complex and changing all the time and also have to keep control of Eddie Jordan. Fair play to Jake if he pulls it off.

The scribes were also taunting Jordan at the launch on Tuesday. A book is running on when the famously foul mouthed Irishman will become the first to get sacked by the BBC. Eddie didn’t offer a date, but found the idea amusing.

On the subject of the coverage being Lewis-centric, check out this comment from
Tom Johnson,
“Of course the coverage should be ‘Hamilton-centric’ and it will be if the BBC want to maintain the ratings boost that ITV enjoyed. Like it or not half the audience is there for Lewis and will soon disappear if he’s not heavily featured – just like Spain for Alonso, Italy for Ferrari and Poland for Kubica – face it guys the world’s chauvinistic and to be frank we have a lot more to be chauvinistic about than Poland does with Kubica. Hamilton’s unprecedented feats in F1 should be cause for rejoicing not churlishness anyway for those that can’t bare a british broadcaster majoring on a british world champion, tough! Try living in Spain Italy Germany Brazil Poland or pretty much anywhere that has a top line driver and get real perspective on what bias is.”

It’s always a mistake to look at the world from your own little bubble and think that is how things are. Hamilton haters are a vocal majority on forums and websites, but you sense that there is a silent mass which far outweighs them among the wider public, people who feel like Tom. Lewis put another 2-3 million on the audience in the last two years and that is why the BBC paid the big dough for the rights. He’ll be front row centre in the coverage.

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27 Comments
  1. Chris says:

    Not related to the article James – but this place is begging for a forum! It would be great not to have to use the planet-f1 forums anymore, and if you occasionally popped in to make a few posts, I think it would become a great place for post race discussion! [ There are plans afoot -- Moderator ]

  2. Gary Davidson says:

    I don’t think there has been as much as bias towards Hamilton as some make out. James and Martin were never afraid to comment if they thought Hamilton was at fault in a race, especially over the last season. But at the same time I think there is room to feature the other drivers in the races and the build-up to the races, it’s an extremely fine line to balance pleasing the Hamilton fans and keeping the neutral or anti-Hamilton fan happy. I don’t think there is a sport where the watching public are as discontent or whingy as F1 viewers!!!

  3. Ben G says:

    Totally in favour of The Chain. Can’t wait. I only hope the BBC don’t try and ‘update’ it.

  4. Aaron James says:

    James: Hamilton suffers from the same problem as you do RE: Haters.

    I refer to the haters of both of you when showing my support as a “minority” because I believe it is a noisy few led by Sniff Petrol.

    I firmly believe there are many more neutral or pro- James Allen and Lewis Hamilton people then anti, but we all need to speak up more. (those that have seen my articles pro-James on forums btw will notice i use the words gifted, talented, immensely popular a lot- while you are an awesome commentator and writer to boot James id like to own up and mention i excessively use those words to annoy the minority :))

    A moderated JA on F1 forum would be fantastic, have you considered some of us guys doing some of the moderating? (power users to effect) [ We hope to announce plans for new features soon. And thanks for the offer! -- Moderator ]

  5. Hamilton haters are a vocal majority on forums and websites, but you sense that there is a silent mass which far outweighs them among the wider public, people who feel like Tom.

    I don’t agree that everyone falls into a category of either ‘Hamilton lovers’ or ‘Hamilton haters’.

    And I think nothing has done more to promote the ‘Hamilton hater’ phenomenon than the saturation coverage in the mass media.

  6. Chris James says:

    Autosport are saying the BBC coverage will not be Lewis-centric, and are keen to put time into covering other drivers. I hope this is true as in my opinion ITV spent far to long most of the time being Hamilton-centric. Yes he is British, but not everyone supports him and would like insight on other drivers.

    Hopefully the BBC will do that. We shall see.

  7. Lee Grant says:

    If you’re a commercial broadcaster and you need advertising revenue and you can pull in extra viewers by pushing an attractive, media-friendly, professional and frankly good looking product…you’ll do it.

    Lewis has a great story, he is inspirational, family-friendly and instantly recognisable to people that don’t normally bother with F1 and couldn’t tell Timo Glock from Fernando Alonso.

    I haven’t even mentioned the driving and the fact he is a World Champion.

    I admit that I used to get frustrated at the misty eyed ‘let us once again look at the footage of Lewis in a go-cart’ that was wheeled out as the last two seasons drew to a close.

    Actually – at the start of the coverage for China 07 there was lots of slow-mo shots of Lewis and sombre music…I thought he’d died! It was the sort of opening sequence they’ll use when the Queen passes away! Then the voiceover started and I realised that I was, once again, about to hear of Lewis’ ‘destiny’. As we all know, destiny decreed that he then stuck it in a gravel trap on his way to Kwik-Fit.

    Frustrated I was, but I knew why it was happening and when you hear people in the street talk about Lewis Hamilton when the only other F1 driver they could name is Nigel Mansell; you know that something special is happening. Lewis could make F1 interesting again for the masses – not just us few that will get up at three in the morning to listen to free-practice on the radio!

    As with an F1 car – there is a balance to be found and I’m sure the BBC will find their way.

  8. Jon says:

    Lewis put another 2-3 million on the audience in the last two years and that is why the BBC paid the big dough for the rights. He’ll be front row centre in the coverage. Well you certainly hope so, don’t you James. *laughs uncontrollably*

    I can tell you right now what the difference is, between good and bad coverage whether Lewis is featured or not. Only my perspective of course. And before I say any more, just want to say that I enjoy the blog a lot.

    It’s whether or not the rest of the race is covered adequately, or if the commentators are too distracted by Lewis’s sector times, to know if someone in 8th has a chance of a podium or no chance of points (if they are 2 stopping or 1 stopping and what is their pace like? etc ).

    In the Button days, even in 06 when the car was half decent but also sometimes struggling.. It was a good coverage of focussing on Button yes, but also covering the race well. The separate battles.. the battle for the lead, the battle for the podium, and the battle for the final points paying positions we all covered very well. In fact Martin and yourself could even predict future events because of how well you would read the sector times, strategies and progress of certain drivers. There was a firm grasp of everyone going on around you to the point, where I could watch the delayed Australian ITV coverage without live timing and still thoroughly enjoy the race because the commentators would make up for it.

    Hockenheim 06 was a good example of a race where the Renaults struggled, Kimi had an unusual strategy, Webber made a good run from behind (Bridgestones were very consistent that day), Button was in a podium position. And as the race went on, circumstances would change, but yet the commentators could keep up with it. And predict what would happen by the end of it, and were bang on.

    Fast foward to 07 and 08, and gradually it started to fade away as Lewismania took over. Drivers strategies started to get mistaken, sector times of the midfield drivers started being ignored or misrepresented, and gradually it morphed to a point where only Lewis and the Ferrari’s sector times mattered. To the point where I had to follow live timing without TV coverage, and then watch the delayed coverage on tape after the race (or watch it live on blurry small box internet feed in another language). Some races were better then others, but some were pretty bad with some big mistakes and a poor grasp of what was happening behind. Am I being a hater? I don’t know, all I know is that I enjoyed the coverage more when Button was featured rather then Lewis.

    So I hope with BBC it can get back to the way it was with Button in 04/05/06. When Lewis is having a good race he deserved to be talked about more because he is British. And deserves to be heaped with praise. However it needs to be remembered there are others out there also having good battles and as a commentator I think it’s your professional role to convey to the viewer the strategy and pace of all drivers (at least the points paying positions) and predict what can happen strategy wise. Because the casual fan doesn’t understand as much what all the live timings and strategies means. Rather then be swept up in the fandom of it all, like driver fanboys do when they only watch the sector times of one driver. When they do it, it’s fair enough, they aren’t being paid to do a job are they?

    For pre and post race coverage, I think it’s pretty irrelevant. Whether he gets 30 mins every race focussed on him, it’s not really important. It’s the race coverage that’s important.

    We will have to wait and see I guess.

  9. speedmerchants says:

    JA writes: Keith, the problem is that you see everything through a prism when it comes to Lewis. I didn’t say that everyone either loves him or hates him, I said some people hate him but the majority of people in the UK TV audience are like Tom, they watch because he’s a Brit doing well, that doesn’t mean or imply that they love him, but merely that they are interested in him and how he does on the track.

  10. Ewan says:

    There’s a difference between a Hamilton focus (that is to say, the amount of time spent talking about him), and a Hamilton bias (giving him an easy ride, excusing his mistakes, etc).

    I’m all for a Hamilton focus, he’s definitely an interesting guy and almost certainly the best driver in F1, the show would be dull if it spent time pointing the camera at the backmarkers for the sake of “evenness”.

    What I don’t think many people will enjoy watching is a show which says Hamilton is doing wonderfully well even when he’s driving into a wall, is staying out too late on the wrong tyres, etc. ITV managed to find a good balance, I hope the BBC does too.

  11. Matthew says:

    So go on James, which was your favourite of the ITV F1 theme music choices and would you rate any of them above “The Chain”?

  12. john g says:

    according to another article i read today the BBC do have lots of archive footage (i read somewhere else that it actually had one of the best archive footage collections) and that there may have been done a deal with Bernie to allow it to be used so we’ll just see on that.

    as for the lewis thing, a lot of the negativity came from that fact that he was forced down our throat to a large extent by the media. it would be better to present a balanced coverage and let the viewer decide who they want to support. but i guess the casual viewer rather than the racing fan wants someone to support rather than simply to enjoy the racing (at least that appears to be what the media believe)

  13. Martin says:

    I’ve been reading this blog since the end of last season but this is my first comment.

    Anyway I would like to say that all this about people hating Hamilton ,loving Hamilton or in between, is a good thing for F1 in general as more people will talk about F1 more. I don’t think I am a particular fan of Hamilton but more of a fan of F1 which I always watch even during the Schumacher dominant years. Don’t get me wrong I always support the British drivers but even in 2007 I wasn’t too sad he didn’t win the championship as I was happy Raikkonen won as I feel he deserves to be a World Champion.

    As long as the Hamilton-era promotes the sport then I welcome all the Hamilton lovers and haters. If anything it makes a good subject to talk about.

  14. Andy Fov says:

    One thing that irritates slightly me with Lewis fandom is him being the darling of the American R+B set; Usher, Jay Z, that lot. They’re interviewed and they’ll typically say “we’re rooting for OUR man – Lewis Hamilton”. No no no, he’s OUR man… Scott Speed is yours, root for him.

    Seriously, I don’t mind Lewis being supported on race grounds, but think it’s wrong that any Briton who supports Kimi / Mark Webber / whoever over Lewis can expect to have their patriotism questioned.

    We should all be allowed to support whoever we like, and I think the BBC needs to realise that many of the people most passionate about F1 are not necessarily Hamilton fans. Ferrari have a huge fanbase within the UK, and as hard as I laughed when Massa left the pits with his fuel rig still attached, I think the BBC needs to be careful that the UK Tifosi don’t feel sidelined.

    I personally am a long time McLaren fan and am delighted that we have a British chapion again, so any bias in programming towards Lewis doesn’t bother me at all. I tend to mostly miss the pre-race preamble anyway, figuring my time is better spent making bacon sandwiches and ensuring I have enough Pringles at my disposal.

  15. Paul L says:

    I think the Lewismania detracted from the coverage significantly in two particular moments:

    1) The penalty at Belgium last year. Clearly there were reasons and arguments for it and against it, but the average viewer wouldn’t have been able to make up his mind because it seemed to be mostly Hamilton/McLaren sympathy and victim support.

    2) Kimi Raikkonen’s world championship. This was a moment fairly long coming, there were many years of frustration and unrealised potential with unreliable cars. It was won in unheralded circumstances (17 points down with two races left), but as he crossed the finish line there was such a flat tone in the commentary box and the coverage in the final laps was focused on “Hamilton’s lead the championship since the 19th of May” and paraphrased “Hamilton needs one place, and hopefully Alonso will fall through the field to let Hamilton through”. Not to mention something like “Kimi deserves ‘a’ championship, but does he deserve this one?” as if to cast a shadow over the validity of Kimi’s title.

    I grew to like and respect ITV’s commentary in 2008, but Brazil 2007 was not, in my view, their best professional effort – too emotionally let down in their Hamilton support to give justice to what Raikkonen had achieved.

  16. Wingers says:

    The Hamilton centric debate is exactly that, debatable.

    You have to understand that BBC may be British, however they do have a worldwide audience they have to cater for too. As paying customers from all around the world are what make their current deal possible. Do you really think that as a free to air channel broadcasting one of the most expensive sports would have been attractive to the BBC, and to do so without advertising breaks, with absolutely no international coverage benefits. No Ways!

    So as much as you believe that it has to be British centric and you have to please only one countries preference… you’re not completely correct.

    You cannot compare European Countries, as quite simply they are not English speaking. So they can be taken out of the equation, as they would never have been involved in the BBC’s coverage. And I don’t think many of us are fairly placed to comment on what exactly their coverage is like and how biased it is? (funny how its naturally assumed that Spanish commentary is completely biased towards Alonso, just because the fans love their Spaniard hero, doesn’t mean their comments reflect this….)

    For the rest of the English speaking world (probably barring SpeedTV’s dubbed English (US Style) commentary), BBC will go straight into their living rooms. And as a South African, Australian, Kiwi etc we have no natural allegiance to a British Driver, yet we actually PAY for satellite subscriptions to essentially pay for this wonderful new coverage we all are going to benefit from. So surely we should be accommodated by fair and unbiased commentary and coverage?

    Anyways, thought I would spice this up by adding some international opinion!

  17. Steven says:

    I am one of the people in favour of “The Chain” coming back. I enjoyed ITV’s themes especially the Moby one, but it didn’t sound like an F1 theme. “The Chain” does and as Martin Brundle says it’s evocative and by what he and Lee McKenzie have said in their interviews/Twitter etc it seems it will be the original version of “The Chain” and not a remix, which is excellent. One thing I picked up on in his interview was that Jonathan Legard has been signed up as the colour commentator where he will be the lead commentator. That sounds a bit odd as I always regarding Legard as a very strong lead commentator, listening to his Radio 5 live F1 commentatories. I guess we shall have to wait and see what happens in Australia.

  18. matt2745 says:

    It’s a strange situation with me and Hamilton because as a huge McLaren fan for years, my natural instinct is to support him and like him. The problem is that as much as I really want to warm to him, I just really struggle with it, I just don’t like how he comes across in the media particularly. After 2007 I thought right, clean slate…and after about three races he was annoying me again.

    I want him to do well for the team but I much prefer Heikki personality-wise and would love him to step it up this year.

  19. Ben G says:

    Spoke too soon. Just watched the Australian GP trailer. The BBC have added a rather weird sound effect to The Chain. Shame.

  20. rpaco says:

    Speaking as an old git, one of many who make up the F1 TV audience, because we can neither afford the ludicrous prices now charged merely for entry even on the Friday of a UK GP weekend, nor have knees capable of climbing either the banking or the grandstand stairs; the Chain is an essential part of our weekend, we have lost Murray (though ably replaced by James it aint the same) and will welcome a return to the “proper” F1 theme. (the rest of the album is also a classic)

    Yes we did used to go on Thursday evening and camped the whole weekend and had various adventures, involving exploding gas cylinders, fires, cracked windscreens, smashed cars and being locked inside the Silverstone track perimeter one year and having to climb over the fence to get out to our camp in the car park. (In those days all the crews worked all night changing the cars from quali to race configuration and one could wander about the pits all night unchallenged, it was all very friendly and relaxed, you didn’t interfere, just looked and no one minded, there was even a fish and chip van and a few all night bars down the runway.) But of course that was before they ruined the circuit with the new twiddly bits between Stowe and Club and in the days of the Weaver trench at Woodcote. That was when Silverstone was fast, by comparison now its a go kart circuit. I mention all this in order to establish my great age and gravitas (obviously not wisdom).

    Anyway he of the sharp nose Rosenthal, got away with it as a new bod and the other over powdered, bloke who took over when he disappeared suddenly with no explanation. (I think they were both from football) It will just be down to whether the new bloke Jake the peg, (sorry convoluted pun on anchor) is any good. Keeping Eddie Jordan in check should be a doddle, remember it could have been Eddie Irvine, now that would be something on the James Hunt level. Though James Hunt was a Toff and Irvine aint).

    I hope the timing graphics are better with BBC this year, half way through ITVs franchise they changed the graphics to a far poorer layout. In particular during quali they show only the top and the bottom. A lot of room for improvement there during the race as well. And if there is any possibility, a plea for us deaf old gits, can we please have the subtitles NOT over the timing graphics. duh!

  21. john g says:

    picking up on something else in the article – jake humphreys. unproven, and not known to be a fan of F1, the bbc are taking a massive gamble with this.

    anthony davidson would be much better instead, bringing another current drivers experience to the commentary which is really invaluable – he was fantastic the times when he commentated for ITV, and together with martin they could make a really interesting and educated team. i think it’s a waste to put him on radio 5 live.

  22. Gary Davidson says:

    Ben G: Where can the trailer be seen?

  23. speedmerchants says:

    JA writes: My favourite of the ITV themes? Mmmm… maybe the last one. My 4 year old keeps singing it even today so it had a certain something. Back in 1996 I suggested Cross Town Traffic by Jimi Hendrix or the main groove to Praise You by Fat Boy Slim, which had resonances of the Chain but was up to date.

    As for Paul L’s comments about my commentary in Brazil 2007, it was amazing for Kimi to come back from 17 points behind with two races to go and win the title, but if you think about it, that’s pretty unprecedented and shows a total collapse on the part of the bloke who was 17 pts ahead ie Hamilton.

    That was the story that day, with all due respect. Kimi had not had a particularly inspired year, a few failures not his fault but plenty of mistakes. Sure he won the final races and did all he had to do but the story was that Hamilton did a Devon Loch. An unbelievable choke. That’s how we called it, with plenty of criticism for the cock-up in China and the wild attempted re-pass on Alonso on the opening lap in Interlagos.

  24. john g says:

    rpaco: another thing we agree on… hopefully FOM will improve the on-screen graphics for positions, sector and lap times etc. not everyone has access to live timing during the race, or the inclination to look at it, but there is so much you can pick up on with just a little more info.

  25. Kenny Carwash says:

    Personally I was glad Kimi won in 2007. I quite like Hamilton and would’ve liked to see a Brit win, but we can’t be sure that McLaren were playing with a straight bat following the spy scandal. Had Hamilton won, it would’ve been considered a non-Championship by the partisan, anti-Hamilton crowd. It was better for the sport that McLaren, and by association Hamilton, won nothing in 2007.

  26. Peter says:

    I have watched F1 on three or four different national channels across Europe so far and I have to say I do not agree with Mr Johnson at all. I think that the British and German broadcasting are the most professinal probably because of the tradition and the experts (plus commercial power) behind the programms. However I have never experienced such a bias broadcasting elswhere as ITV last year. OK, timewise they cover their national drivers a lot which is understandable, but the broadcasting is always objective. Last year with ITV I had the feeling like ITV is actually a kind of PR agency of Hamilton which was really far over the top. I respect all Hamilton fans and let them watch their hero as much as possible, but this should be a sport, a global sport coverage. By the way I am not Hamilton hater, I am a hater of the fact that I see Hamilton making a silly mistake and in the same time I need to listen that It was down to the circumstances, other drivers, rules etc, But if he makes an overtaking that we have seen doing by others many times bevor its always the passing manouver of the decade. What I expect from BBC is an objective F1 coverage and they can talk about Hamilton as much as they want. But if they get it over the top they can expect many of the British fan of other drivers to leave and non of them because of hating Hamilton…

  27. Alex B says:

    I do think that Jake Humphreys has the potential to do a good job, but it all depends on whether he actually likes F1 or not. He has presented the Superbowl for the past 2 years (which is not a particularly easy sport to follow), and has done a great job. Also, he does a much better job than Ray Stubbs when he fills in on Final Score, working well under the pressure of live coverage.

    So, as long as he is committed to the sport, I reckon he will do a great job.

    As for the Hamilton bias/non-bias, I gave up trying to reason with people about this AGES(!) ago – some people just see and hear what they want to I guess!

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