BBC vulnerability opens door to F1 on Pay TV: Some fan reactions
F1 on TV
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Jul 2011   |  11:04 am GMT  |  274 comments

Since the bombshell was dropped on Friday that F1 in the UK is to be taken over by pay TV channel SKY, with BBC being only bit part players on the scene, the fan reaction has been very strong with 81% of a poll sample of 5,000 JA on F1 readers saying that they will not buy a SKY package to watch F1.

We’ve had 1,400 comments in 48 hours on the subject, with some very eloquently expressions of regret and anger.

Here is my selection of the best of them:

Ed Arran writesSebee writes

I don’t know, but looking at Fox/Speed I can tell you it’s pushed back 4 hours. So Live at 8AM in EST, and replay on Fox at Noon. So in UK they will probably put it on at 6PM since BBC probably has a Sunday 8PM routine line up of some sort that they won’t disrupt with F1.

It’s actually not too bad, because you can save a lot of time. Remember – this is Sunday – your day of rest and time with family. You check the result before replay and if it’s Vettel again, you just saved yourself 2 hours. If you read that something happened on lap 23, you go about your business and come back on 21 to the action. Really a nice time saver routine. Especially in UK where GPs are smack in the middle of the day for you.

BBC will have only highlights on Sky race days (Darren Heath)

Mark writes:

I’ve been watching F1 for 25 years now missing only a handful of races. In that time the UK TV coverage has constantly improved until the current situation where the BBC is doing a fantastic job. In conjunction with excellent websites like this one I, as an F1 fan, have never had it so good.
I don’t watch any other sports. In fact I don’t watch much TV other than F1. Life is too busy with other things for that. So, I’ve never been interested in getting cable or satellite TV. Looking this morning at the cost to watch F1 on Sky it looks like it would be very expensive – not just the cost of the channel but also the cost of the basic subscription. Bernie, we don’t all have your millions. I know nothing in life is free but my current feeling is that I’ll prioritise spending my money on my family rather than to watch F1. It’ll also give me more free time. I would have considered a single fee per race but the price of a basic and channel subscription just to watch F1 is too much. Sure, half the races will still be live with full coverage on the BBC but to be honest if I’m not able to watch all the races in full, live or delayed, then I think my interest in F1 will wane which is sad as F1 has been quite a big part of my life so far. So the BBC are going to show races such as Silverstone, Monaco and the last race. But what if the title decider is not the last race? So, I watch half the races but it’s 50/50 that I will see the winner? Come back ITV and your advert breaks, all is forgiven! This reminds me of how as a kid I loved football. I regularly watched games on TV on Saturday afternoons. But now? The only football I watch now are England games when they’re in the world cup or something, but other than that I don’t watch football any more – and don’t have much interest in it – as its all on pay TV. Now it’s happening to F1…
A sad day, but life moves on I guess…

Mark J writes

Your last line Phil, could be the biggest topic out of all this with the BBC still able to stream the races online. With such a backlash towards watching the races on Sky, it could be a real alternate and many people thankfully have access to the net these days.

This is a sad day though and firstly for nostalgic reasons in that F1 has been broadcast on free to air for so long. Second in that the demand for more money and high fees is making the sport more and more out of reach of the everyday fans. High ticket prices at venues, traditional locations forced to drop races or share because they themselves can not afford the fees. The balance between making money vs. the followers of the sport has tipped in the wrong direction.

Fans will have to dig deep to follow whole season (Darren Heath)

Tony Simmons writes:

I’m undecided about this as there is a bag full of details to be confirmed that will determine whether this has a positive or negative effect overall on coverage. For example, it has been confirmed on the BSkyB website that there will not be any adverts during the race.

The BBC will still show highlights of all races so if the races that I would normally watch live are still shown free-to-air then it may not have such an impact for me. I’d be surprised if BSkyB have gone for that within the deal, though.

I will be reticent to pay a significant amount for a Sky Sports subscription that I will hardly use other than for F1 but I’m sure there will be some ‘tempting offers’ thrown about to get subscribers on-board prior to the 2012 season.

It will be interesting to see who goes where from the current personnel covering the sport or whether any former presenters will be employed by Sky Sports, James!

New face of F1? Sky's Georgie Thompson is tipped to present F1

Steve Quinnell writes:

I’m already a Sky Sports subscriber, mainly for the big Champions League matches that aren’t available elsewhere. The thing is although I’m in the lucky position of being able to afford it & will still have coverage of all the races next year I’m still absolutely gutted about this for a number of reasons.

Personally I think Sky tend to dumb-down most things they cover. Look forward to F1 coverage for the “lowest-common denominator” fan. Presented by James Corden and Jodie Marsh maybe? I’m only half-joking! They also steadfastly refuse to criticize any aspect of their product, meaning if you’ve just watched the dullest race in the world you’ll then have to sit and watch as the presenters try to convince you it was the best thing you’ve ever seen.

I think this is a big own-goal. How can they spend a whole race weekend dithering about exhaust gases and anal technical rule changes that no-one except themselves care about, stuff that doesn’t really affect anything much in the long term, and then make a decision like this which I would argue is more far-reaching and important than any of the usual politics and affects far more people and their view of the sport.

I have been an F1 fan since the Mansell years. I’ve missed no more than a handful of races on TV since 1987 and have travelled all over the world on holidays to Grand Prix as well following the sport I love. And despite having Sky Sports I don’t think I’ll be watching the races on that channel next year. I think the coverage will be too unbearably annoying and I don’t want to watch F1 like that. Which means I’ll probably lose touch with the sport and stop watching the BBC coverage too over time. And stop going to the races. Life moves on.

Bernie is usually proved right in the long run, but unless this is a cunning bargaining strategy as another poster suggested I really doubt he’s picked a winner this time. Nice one.

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I pay to buy my tv I pay for my sky cable I pay for my tv licence and now you want me to pay for my F1. you are killing the golden goose with your greed. When you see the drop in viewers it may be too late to repair the damage you have caused to the sport as money is short everywhare at the moment


This is really a distaster for anyone watching TV on Virginmedia. I as a female lover of motor sports, to get the Sky F1 channel I have to pay for 4 Sports channels I will never watch. I think this is totally out of order. Come on Virgin let us watch it for at least half the price you are charging for the sports channels.


Heya i?m for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It really helpful & it helped me out much. I am hoping to present one thing back and aid others like you helped me.


After this F1 season I plan is to get my motor racing fix by following the Le Mans Series since all this F1 coverage debacle.


Just one thought,

We currently have 2 British WDC. Button and Hamilton. Their profiles have added to achieve 6,000,000 plus viewing figures in the UK.

In Italy, its 10,000,000 because of Ferrari.

Once the British interest has gone, what hardcore fans are left.

Most fans follow a driver, exception being Ferrari where we follow the team.

I’m Italian, I’ll tune into Rai and watch that coverage…


The Channel 4 bid:

But the BBC ran with open arms to Sky to stop it, aided and abetted by the usual suspects at FOTA.


It’s sad that free-to-air F1 coverage will be as good as dead in the UK.

It would have been preferable to dilute the free coverage, but keep it viable as an alternative.


– Free to air: live coverage of the race only (all races), no quali, ad breaks, low budget (e.g. minimal or no broadcast staff at the circuit), no highlights, no HD

– Premium: full race weekend, minimal/no ads in the race, commentators & pundits, highlights, HD + other differentiators

Sky clearly had the high ground in negotiations and it’s understandable that they want to maximize the return on their investment, with an eye on the poor take-up of the premium F1 coverage of a few years ago. A shame the BBC came out with so little.

Incidentally, I reckon adverts would be a small price to pay to keep the event free to view. Split-screen ads if the action is hot and full screen ads in the less crucial parts of the race, with any missed juicy bits shown asap after the commercials.


Hi James

I was trying to find a “contact” link but couldn’t – and this is relevant to this post to I thought it worth while putting it here.

I’m sure you are aware but at last there is one e-petition that has the potential to get noticed rather than all the others which will fall on deaf ears. The Governments newly launched e-petition site currently has the F1 Free to Air petition as the 2nd most signed one, and it has got a reasonable amount of press for that reason. I thought it may be appropriate for you to dedicate a blog post specifically to that, so you can give you readers a focussed place to voice their feelings.

If it gets over 100,00 signatures it will apparently be debated in parliament, not that I personally think it will change much but it does help to raise the awareness of peoples anger

I figured of you’re 1000+ comments relating to this story there would be a lot of people wanting to sign it so any publicity would help!



SKY have taken over too many sports coverage over the years, Football, Golf, and Cricket, to name just 3. The reason SKY are now interested in Formula 1 is down to the fantastic job the BBC, its presenters and production team have done in increasing the profile and viewing figures, after they were successful in the bidding process in 2009. The last two bidding processes for the TV rights, SKY did not bid, as far as I am aware. Its only now, when the viewing figures are over 6 million, that they want the sport, because they can see a profit in it, by charging an exorbitant amount to watch Formula 1. I hope it all backfires on Bernie and Murdoch when they don’t get the expected increase in paying customers.

If the BBC had been honest with the Formula 1 fans to begin with, when they were considering cutting the sport altogether, I would have been more than happy to pay extra for my TV licence, say £5, so if all 6 million viewers paid that, it would amount to £30 million. The problem would have been how to collect it from the Formula 1 fans.

Another party who may be responsible for this situation is the then Government (2009) who left Formula 1 off the Crown Jewel Sports that are preserved for Free To Air TV coverage. The alarm bells should have started to ring in March 2009 when the press highlighted that SKY would target Free To Air Sports.

So has this move by greedy Murdoch and Co been on the cards since March 2009.


I would suspect that only the British GP could ‘legally’ be added to that list anyway – I don’t see how the government can force an overseas event to be preserved other than for ‘exceptional’ occasions such as the olympics or the world cup of football. If live football isn’t protected then there is no chance F1 would be.


Another thought, it is worrying that this deal is for seven years – if it is the disaster it appears to be then we are stuck with it for a long time… Granted Sky would want long-term before investing but I’m surprised they couldn’t come up with a lower cost deal for 2-3 years to try the waters first.


F1 coverage alone isn’t enough for me to justify subscribing to Sky – it would be cheaper to subscribe to ESPN for the Ice Hockey, a sport I love more than F1, but I can’t even justify the expense for that. I suspect many will feel the same.

However, I wonder at the logic of what the BBC have agreed here. Surely there is little point in only covering half the season. The dedicated fans will go over to Sky, a lot of the less keen will drop away as they can’t see the whole season so won’t bother with any of it. The BBC may be lucky to break 1m viewers with this deal – about 20% of their average this year, so I hope they are paying less than 20% of the existing costs…

What I can’t fathom is why they couldn’t come up with a deal to cover just the race live and leave the Sky coverage for all the extras. Sky would still get a similar number of converts as most of the dedicated fans would want the whole shooting match yet the less dedicated fans could still watch all the races.

If the intention is for Sky to offer better coverage then they have very little to lose by preventing the BBC doing basic live coverage and will probably lose more from people deserting the sport out of disgust.

One thing I will be interested in is what is going to be available online on the BBC. At the moment I catch up with most of the non-race stuff on the iPlayer. Losing that would be a blow.

Another thing that strikes me is that the BBC are doing such a good job of covering the sport, why can’t Sky sub-contract the coverage back to the BBC, they would possibly have more money available as a result to improve more. As it stands those who do move over are in for a couple of seasons of Sky trying to find its feet before we are even at the level of the existing coverage. Getting the BBC to do the lot and allowing them to show just the race would seem a win-win for both sides.


German RTL brodcasts free to air on Astra 1 with commercial breaks


To my mind it’s very interesting to see how Bernie Ecclestone has handled this situation. In the past he has often been a man who has broken a story early so that others potentially involved are drawn in to the argument only for him to “change his mind” and get a better deal elsewhere. None of that this time round and this deal was a complete shock to all within the F1 world including teams and Media.

He knew that this would be an unpopular decision so didn’t want anything leaked until the deal was done and yet he will be sure that it will be more profitable than the current deal. I suspect we will see a lot more coverage in the Sun and Times in the coming years and won’t the sponsors like that!

And no, I won’t be subscribing to Sky.


Usually in this sort of situation you would expect the media to jump all over a story like this. I don’t read newspapers so I’m not sure what the printed media is doing but it seems to me that F1 websites in particular are being more passive than I would expect.

I can see a number of possible reasons for this:

1. The announcement was made, tactically I suspect, at the time when most F1 media were expecting a 3 week break with little news. The numbers available to cover the story is less than it would normally be.

2. F1 journalists aren’t keen to rock a boat that they would like to climb aboard, given the opportunity.

3. The details are so scant that there is nothing more to say at the moment.

4. Employers of the interested parties (BBC/BSkyB) may be ‘managing’ their employees throughout the period of uncertainty.

5. The BBC and BSkyB/NI are 2 of the main news providers in the country.

The combination of all of these means that there are few questions being asked (other than in forums) and answered about the coverage.

As a minimum, I would like to know answers to the following:

1. Which races will be covered live by the BBC and which by BSkyB?

2. Will BBC show full delayed coverage of the non-live races or just highlights?

3. Will the BBC live coverage be the same quantity and to the same standard as the current live coverage?

4. Will the BSkyB coverage be on a Sports channel or another channel such as Sky One?

5. How will presentation team resources be shared i.e. will the current BBC team continue to work for the BBC with their commentary output only made avaiable to BSkyB or will the commentary team be employed by BSkyB?

I know some of the questions appear to have obvious answers but I’m not able to form an opinion about this until the above (and other) details start to become clear.

The timing of the announcement is suspicious primarily because these details do not appear to have been worked out yet. I would normally expect BSkyB, in particular, to have the marketing machine up and running to follow up with information that makes their coverage ‘unmissable’.


The thing here is Bernie’s U-TURN and the squander of our forced TV licensing, if we have to pay to watch our sports and any premium show, movies etc then we should not have to pay for a service that provides us with nothing that we want to watch.

Austerity is one thing, pinching our TV licence money to pay bad debt is daylight robbery, so we are now in the situation that we can no longer afford to go to the pub, have a meal and go on nice holidays due to no increases in salaries and rising food costs (you name it everything is going up in price) but the BBC can’t afford £40million because the Government has decided to spend our licence fees on something other than our entertainment, therefore forcing us to pay to have better quality TV in the only place we can afford to be – AT HOME.

If this is the sign of the way the BBC wishes to go (or forced), rather than petition to stop this deal going through we should petition to no longer pay for the BBC which far than meets what the nation wants to watch – reality check here, bar a few good programs the BBC is full of reruns, antiques shows and two channels with nothing on, so you can then actually pay for something you want to watch. Alternatively the BBC could shelve the £900million move to Salford until better times (this is a figure that has been brandished about so not sure on its validity).

I am sure Sky will do a good job even though I hate the obvious moral reasons of recent activities – probably not only secluded to them as I am sure the whole Press industry will suffer as the rocks get turned over – but like everyone I would like to see it remain on the BBC who have done a great job with it, which proves then can do great things if they try. The issue with Sky is where in the scheme of things it fits in. What happens in the case when F1 and a football match coincide, then when F1, football, cricket, rugby and golf, which gets the prime spot? Not saying Sky will be devious (tongue-in-cheek) but I see the need for full packages or sorry the GP will be on Sky Sports 4 so if you want to watch it upgrade.

Well lets see what comes out of the wood work and as mentioned before in this forum it seems to have been a quick decision as I am sure that Sky would have been blasting its trumpet all about it and hey who knows “U-TURN Bernie” may do that yet again.


Having had time to hear all the comments there is an answer the germans never pay for anything so get yourself tuned to RTL as they have justed signed up to free to air till 2015. Same weekend that Bernie sold us a dud. Will be tuned into RTL with Rfive live comentary. Did it before when ITV had it turned to RTL in the breaks. Very proffesional all day coverage. If you cannot beat them join them. Thanks


yes that works. He should have put his head over the parapet and explained fota reaction. Will that read no Lotus virgin hispania and maybe Williams who may well not make the start gate because of no sponsorship. Thats OK Bernie has enough money to buy them and influence the outcome of the fota vote at the next concord agreement.

If the above does not work it is good riddens to all those cretins who say they will get a wider audience on SKY what a load of cobblers.

RTL details Kingofsat small receiver caravan version from Maplins or screwfix point and go. Learn german over the winter months and you can throw the beeb away. Enjoy in the knowledge Bernie Murdoch and the BBC cannot stop you.

Michael Cumming

The BBC spend 2.2 billion on BBC1 and BBC2, they also spend about 200 million just on BBC3 &4.

The Sports package is about 260 Million per year, 09/10, and this was not changing for this year 10/11.

Considering that F1 has hit every target set by the BBC in 2009 including an audiance of 30 million plus for the year which out done every other sporting event except those that have a world wide reach, i.e World Cup, Olympics etc, Wimbledon is the only other one to reach there’s target.

Read this report, it makes a mockery of what has been said and reported on by the BBC.

A minor point did the BBC follow this requirement?

‘ The BBC must comply with competition and state aid law when carrying out its Public Service Activities. In addition,

the BBC Trust requires that all of the BBC’s Public Service Activities must comply with the Competitive Impact

Principle (CIP), which states that:

‘Whilst always ensuring the fulfilment of its Public Purposes and taking into account its other obligations in the Charter

and the Agreement, the BBC must endeavour to minimise its negative competitive impacts on the wider market.’36 The CIP does not necessarily require that the BBC should eradicate all potential negative impacts of its Public Service Activities and is not intended to protect the commercial interests of every company that believes they are undermined by the BBC’s presence.

Rather, the key objective of the CIP is to protect the interests of consumers,which are generally considered to coincide with the aim of protecting competition in the market.

The CIP has been operationalised by the BBC Executive through the Fair Trading Guidelines and is managed through the BBC Fair Trading department,


Thanks to James for allowing yet another outlet for our outrage. There are so many facets to this story that it’s hard to know where to best channel the anger. I would say, though, that a move to Sky will turn F1 into a minority sport within 2 seasons and, given the huge number of people employed in the UK by many of the major teams, this is going to a very bleak period for the UK economy.


F1 BBC -SKY Sports – My take

I’ve experienced mixed emotions with respect the the recent announcements from the BBC and Sky Sports for 2012-2018 F1 coverage. The first emotion is that of frustration, born out of how the situation has arisen where the BBC are unable to meet the financial obligations of an existing contract. It has been well publicised that since the David Cameron came in to power has has met on numerous occasions with the Murdoch’s, (majority shareholders of BSKYB, i.e. skysports) it could be said that the announcement of fixing the TV licence fee (BBC funding) for a period of 6 years was borne out of meetings with the Murdoch’s. Whilst this fixing of fee may have been perceived as positive by the public, it in effect meant a budget reduction to the BBC of 20% making agreements such as the F1 deal simply impossible to honour. In my opinion the Murdoch family / group pressured the government into reducing the financial power of the BBC in order to facilitate their own companies ability to grow. The F1 deal can be seen as one of these areas of growth. Had the licence fee not been in effect cut, F1 would have remained on the BBC until at least 2014. There is a feeling of admiration that the Murdoch family have the strategic sense to obtain the rights to F1, and increase UK entertainment presence in such as way, but the sense of admiration is curtailed by the sense of fear that a company has such clear power over the government of a country I was proud to be a citizen of. In light of the ongoing scandal surrounding the Murdoch group I remain hopeful the company will be split up for dishonourable actions and the decision makers be held accountable. The decision makers without any doubt are the Murdoch family.

Beyond the political aspect of the announcement there is a sense of upset, the BBC have produced an outstanding level of coverage, a package which meets the expectations of the hardcore F1 fan and that is light enough for the casual fan to engage with and enjoy. I have doubts that a commercial production will be able to achieve such a balanced package. My hope is that if there are no changes to the current deal, in order to minimise costs BBC and SKY agree a deal that the current production team provide the package for both groups, with additional features available to SKY. It would seem illogical to have two competing service providers for the same market attend the each GP and would serve only to diminish the package available to the viewer. I don’t want to have to switch between BBC and SKY for interviews with certain teams or drivers, or have interviews cut in half so the same person can give input to both providers. I can imagine the reality for 2012 and beyond for the BBC will be Jake in a studio based position for highlights, similar to that of MOTD, and that DC and Brundle, or similar, will be hired by FOM to provide British commentary available to countries with a requirement. SKY and BBC will then have 1-2 passes for personale to do interviews over a race weekend.

Whilst I have given my perspective on the reality of how I see the SKY / BBC coverage panning out over 2012 and beyond, my hope is for much more, I would love to see increased weekend coverage from SKY, with dedicated channels to the entire weekend of sport, including GP2 & GP3 (and I guess Porsche) in depth access to all teams and to driver team communications (available to all from 2012 either way) I would like the viewer to be treated with the respect the BBC has offered, and for the forums for viewer opinions to remain.

Having lived outside of the UK for the last 4 years, I’m used to paying for BBC services, and have a genuine appreciation for the quality of service provided. I will pay to see F1 on SKY, out of curiosity and F1 obsession. Having said that I’m curious to see which 10 races the BBC won’t show live. I hope it’s the European season. (excluding British and Monaco) if this proves to be the case, I’ll cancel the SKY subscription and drive to the races, general admission to the European season would be similar to a year of SKY sports.

2009- 2011 some of the best F1 races of my life, presented by the BEST F1 coverage the sport has ever seen.

Separate note, but I think BBC World posted profits of 114 Million GBP in 2010, surely they could have bid for the F1 deal?


But they would be bidding for UK rights only. What use is that to BBC worldwide?


Thanks for the reply James.

BBC World / BBC USA / BBC entertainment are the profit centres for the BBC. Until recently they have not produced any exclusive programming, instead they take shows broadcast in the UK, on BBC or other FTA channels and broadcast them in the US and other countries. They pay the BBC or other FTA channels for the rights to do this.

F1 is undervalued in the US, I would guess BBC world could obtain the US broadcasting rights at rates significantly lower than the UK. The Public BBC could then sell it’s production to the profit making BBC World and US.

Additionally the BBC could look to acquire distribution rights for F1 in countries where it is not yet televised or is done so with lowe rates, and use it’s BBC World, BBC entertainment or BBC news channels to televise F1 in these areas. Each of these parts of the business are commercial and have funding this could / would significantly reduce the burden of the F1 broadcasting rights fees on the public BBC.

I believe this could have been a solution to keep F1 exclusively on the BBC, but accept it would have required an approach of aggressive growth adopting the spend money to make money mentality, which is contrary to how a public company would normally operate. However this has been the attitude of some governments as they try to recover from the recession.

An alternative, but rather late view!!


This should have read ‘Criminal and unprofessional behaviour is rife…’


Alternative method BBC could have used to continue coverage.

BBC gets approx 4.5 million per race

Cost of F1 coverage to the BBC per year is £45 million

BBC put F1 on TOPUP TV channel and ask that all you pay is £20 per year for this which equates to £1 per race

Thats £4.5 million per race or £90 million per year

It could even go as low as 50pence per race/£10 year and still generate £45 million required

Very little to pay out for the fans Just £10/£20 and coverage stays exactly the same.

Simply and affordable idea.


For reference to our British readers from a Stateside reader:

The terms “over the air / free to air” refer to Broadcast Networks (BBC, Four, Five, ITV) and “pay/subscription” television refers to Subscription-based channels (Sky, ESPN, et al). FTA/OTA/Broadcast mean the consumer does not have to pay a fee to the channel provider to receive the channel, while Subscription Channels such as Sky, Disney, Motors TV, Discovery Communications, Time Warner, et al, charge to receive the service. In many instances, a pay television company (such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast (which owns “Senna the Movie”, or Sky) will charge the subscriber, and then the money is split among the channels via a per-subscriber fee.

It’s the per-subscriber fee gouging that is almost assured with Sky to get F1 that concerns UK fans, as I can see. This is a common practise in the US with ESPN’s rise and the networks’ fall. They keep raising their per-subscriber rate to the highest in the US industry. Sky can “gouge” that rate to keep the Premiership and F1 in their hands and away from the broadcast networks now.


I don’t reside in the UK but i do download and watch the races a couple hours after they air. The BBC coverage is out of this world and to be honest the best there is. The show will of course go on with or without the BBC but for sure i wish that the races weren’t so monetized. Why not let the BBC air F1 for free and charge the rest who offer pay tv packages?

Bernie needs to die and the sooner the better.


James, I would agree with you on the theory that SKY brokered this deal and that the BBC have been used like a puppet.

Why else would BE who is the key to F1 suggest that the BBC only run a deferred highlights show. Well if the BBC ran the race in full why would people move to SKY when they could just wait a couple of hours or so and watch it then.

This deal has been done with SKY in mind and the BBC have had to agree to this.


The BBC went to Sky, primarily to keep Channel 4 out of the picture, this was discussed at the Silverstone meeting.

Having said that, some of the BBC team were very enthusiastic to keep F1 on the BBC, others just wanted to keep it out of the clutches of a FTA rival.

There is another press announcement due, but it’s been delayed as it requires a heavy piece of rewriting and approval.

Annoyed Licence Fee Payer

I’m still amazed by the comments of some non-UK fans on other message boards, who seem to think that the British fanbase has ‘had it easy’ all these years getting F1 free of charge on the BBC. The fact is F1 has never been free to watch in the UK, indeed no TV is ‘free’ to air in the UK. We have the licence fee, which has ensured that we have paid for all our ‘free’ TV broadcasts for decades, on pain of being branded a criminal and whilst there is little sign of this ever changing, after this episode I think it is time for a serious look at how the BBC’s ‘unique’ funding is administered. They consider it acceptable to drop full coverage of a hugely popular (increasingly so, in fact) sport to save money but are apparently more than happy to pay millions for yet another niche ‘talent’ show, a product which frankly should have gone to a commercial ‘free’ to air broadcaster.


It’s interesting to see all the talk of a better demographic for advertisers to target, but I don’t think they appreciate that F1 fans are also a more intelligent demographic, and whilst a lot us (like myself) can afford to pay for SKY, we choose not to on principal. This deal will not change that. Unfortunately I cannot choose whether or not to pay the licence fee! And even though I do pay, as a paying ‘stakeholder’ my opinion (along with the millions and millions of others judging by the response to this news) means didly squat!

We now live in a free EU where earlier this year the EU Court’s Advocate-General Julie Kokott said blocking the right to use far cheaper Greek decoders to screen Premier League matches breached EU single market rules.

The Advocate-General’s “opinion” is not legally-binding, but the full panel of EU judges follows such advice in about 80% of cases. Let’s hope that the panel later this year comes to the correct decision and the SKY empire will begin to fall.

Optomistic, I know, but being so angry at this decision I need to try and focus this elsewhere and hope that Murdoch’s millions aren’t used to ‘pursuade’ the panel.

Finally, well done James and your (unfortunately correct) prediction that the current F1 coverage is possibly the high water mark and we should enjoy it whilst we can. Once SKY have their mits on it you will be proved SO correct!

Richard Jackson, New Zealand.

Well in New Zealand this happened quite a few years back. It used to be free to air on TV but obviously (?) for us it’s on late at night, usually mid night here. That doesn’t attract a huge audience in this country and it moved to SKY/pay TV.

SKY had one ‘free to air’ channel called Prime, on which they show replays and delayed coverage. For F1 this means a highlights package one week (!) later on a show that is mixed with other sporting events. The worst I ever saw on that was an entire race condensed into a 5 minute slot!

So all I can say, is for a lot of the world F1 has not been free to air for a long time. Here SKY is the only pay TV network so there is no competition and prices are sizeable. Half the country has it, but you pay for it, and a lot if you just want a few sporting events only. If your experience is anything like ours then this is a slippery slope that only heads one way.

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