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More on BBC's new head of F1
More on BBC's new head of F1
Posted By:   |  28 Feb 2009   |  2:38 pm GMT  |  7 comments

Following the news that Niall Sloane, executive producer of F1, has quit the BBC, I saw on the Guardian media website that the BBC has appointed Ben Gallop as head of F1.

I’ve asked around and apparently he comes from the online side of the media business rather than TV and has no F1 background. Mark Wilkin, who is the editor of the F1 programme will report to him. Mark does have a strong F1 background and is also a very experienced producer/director. He held the same role when the BBC last had F1 in 1996.

There seems to be some confusion among people who’ve left comments on the site about how these two roles work, so let me explain.

An executive producer is generally a senior figure who oversees a programme, he has the major say in who is appointed in the presentational roles, argues with the network bosses for more budget and airtime for his show etc. He can often be executive producer on a number of different programmes, as Niall was with his Match of the Day position.

He is often someone who has extensive programme making experience, so knows what it’s like to be at the coal face, but has risen to a senior position where he does not actually put the programme together. He has the authority to tell the editor he wants to see less Lewis Hamilton or more on Ferrari, but often exec producers just leave the editor to get on with it.

As the BBC’s new offering is based as much on the online and interactive stuff as it is on the TV element, appointing someone with extensive online experience makes some sense and it shows which way the BBC thinks the media is going that a non-TV person can take on this role.

Remember that the coverage of the race itself is done by Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM TV operation, a scaled down version of the team who made the digital pay per view service of the early 2000s, which was briefly broadcast on SKY. BBC will just be doing the bit before and after the race and sticking a commentary on the race itself.

Niall will stay on for the first two races of the 2009 formula one season before departing in mid-April. There is currently a vacant role for head of sport at ITV and as they have a lot of football contracts it’s a fair bet that Niall will go for that job.

It’s not ideal to lose the man who put the team together, but it will not disrupt their preparations too much, in my view.

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Afterthought: how about filming the top ten drivers walking deliberatively across a zebra crossing (across the grid) Beatles/pseudo-Trainspotting style to the music? Opportunities to integrate the crowds with the musical allegories too.


Why not use Iggy Pop’s ‘Passenger’ in the intro to the F1 races? You could synch the lyrics & melodies with footage, each segment offering an audio-visual metaphor (starts, crashes, overtakes, etc).

I’m sure he’s a ‘nice bloke’ but David Coultard has a cardboard personality albeit slightly less somnambulaic than (I can’t recall his predecessor as he was so boring). Eddie Jordan and is it Jake? Marsh were equally under-inspiring choices. Why can’t we have a Murray Walker ‘fizz’ to the commentary – or more particularly someone capable of that? Tell ya what – endless analyses of tyres and ‘pitting strategies’ send me to sleep. Too much science and too little thrill & spill. Murray Walker had us on the edge of our seats. The programme format has been threshing about over the last few months and has made improvements – but it has yet to find its personality and a formula as winning as its inheritance from the BBC was years ago. How inspired to combine Walker and Fleetwood Mac. Why should it take so long to cherry pick the best decades later and best that? Bring us excitement rather than one dimensional personalities and analyses. Treated right F1 coverage could be huge.


Some of you guys should assist me in starting the “Bring Back James Allen” campaign………

Its only just if heads roll over the ludicrous decision not to bring James Allen along.


James, did you put your name forward for any role at the BBC ?
You’ve got a wealth of experience in both F1 journalism and TV presenting (a handful of years at least for the latter). Even if there was “no room in the inn” on the commentary bench or the pitlane at the BBC, you could have been a fine replacement for Steve Rider’s role, especially if we’re talking about being the ‘Q’ person in the Q&A post-race segment with the BBC F1 analysts (ie Coulthard, formerly Blundell). I mean, I think you would pose intelligent questions, and I think the coverage would benefit from that.


Its a big mistake not taking James on as the other commentator. I know he has had a lot of detractors but he and Martin were/are the best pound for pound F1 option available. I dont doubt all this Red Button stuff will be great, but we are losing out on th real deal. Never liked the 5 Live commentary myself so its a real shame for me. Still, will be reading this page often and I hope to hear James on F1 again soon! (Maybe 20010-11 season? Surely the Beeb will come to their senses?)


In an ideal world, it would be awesome if the new guy hired James Allen – something tells me the BBC team won’t be as good as ITVs. I’m 18 and I’ve watched the sport since the 2001 season, and I can quite confidently say James was the only lead commentator in any sport on TV that never got on my nerves. Also, anyone who actually slates Allen continually seriously needs to get a life. Hope to see you back on our TV screens doing F1 in the too distant future James.

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