F1 Winter Break
Anti-Murdoch MP calls for BBC bosses to clarify F1 deal
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Sep 2011   |  11:56 am GMT  |  189 comments

According to a report in today’s Mirror, a member of the coalition government, who sponsored a motion against News International, has called for the BBC director general Mark Thompson to explain how the BBC/Sky F1 deal came about. Under the deal, BBC will show only 10 of the 20 races, the rest will be on a SKY pay platform.

In a letter to Thompson, which was leaked to the Mirror, Lib Dem MP Don Foster says, “I do not believe plans to share coverage between the BBC and Sky promote the best interests of licence fee payers and motor racing fans. I believe the best result would have been for the rights to remain with a free-to-air broadcaster, even if this was not the BBC.”

He adds: “My main concern is that your account of who made the key decisions behind the agreement does not agree with the version of events given by Formula 1 Management.”

Bernie Ecclestone has said that the decision to bring Sky in on the deal was the BBC’s, while a spokesman for the BBC has said that the Sky decision was made by FOM.

Foster, who has a track record of chasing popular causes, has noted the strength of feeling from fans in the UK and the e-petition on the subject. His letter is clear and concise and gets right to the heart of fans’ problem with the deal.

However Foster also has a track record as an outspoken critic of News International, which has a large stake in BSKYB. In July he sponsored a motion in parliament that “That this House believes it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation to withdraw their bid for BSkyB”, in which he argued that “News International is simply no longer respected in this country.”

Foster has called for Thompson to address the matter and explain how the deal came about when the BBC makes a scheduled appearance before a Commons Select committee shortly.

This appearance will follow a similar format to Rupert and James Murdoch’s recent appearance before a select committee over the phone hacking scandal in that it will give MPs a chance to ask questions and try to get to the bottom of the situation. Foster voices the issue many fans have raised, that half a deal with the BBC is no use, as F1 fans will still have to pay for a full Sky subscription to watch the 10 non-BBC races. He describes it as a very bad deal for fans.

It is unlikely that the hearing will change much as the deal is signed and doesn’t violate any anti-competition laws, but at least F1 fans will get a definitive answer about why the BBC went into this deal.

Ecclestone said that he spoke to ITV and Channel 4 but couldn’t do a deal with them because the BBC had another two years left on its contract.

Meanwhile there were suggestions at the weekend that for the races it does not show live, the BBC could screen a full race re-run a few hours after the race on the Red Button digital service, rather than merely serving up a highlights package on Sunday evenings.

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I don't get the "BBC had two years left on it's contract" - Surely the BBC were breaking the contract, it can't of had a clause that said it was ok to deal with other broadcasters if it decided it no longer wanted it. Think Bernie is just trying to pass the blame. they are both as bad as each other.F1 should have protected status and be sold to C4


BBC had a re-negotiate clause in the original contract and it is this clause that allowed them to open the offer of sharing the remainder of the contract with another party.

The main issue is now - was the sky deal a BBC closed doors deal or were Ch 4 allowed the same oppotunity as Sky and if so why was the Sky deal preferred?


SKY = More money. It usually is with the Murdochs. The come, they see, they want, they buy and no one is principled enough to resist their cash.


Exactly, he could have forced them to see out the contract, THEN spoke to ITV/C4. He must think we are all complete mugs,


Ps, every time I read a new quote from Bernie suggesting CVC was forced into this deal by the big bad BBC I laugh and cry at the same time (which results in a mess). This whole line about CVC not being able to effectively negociate with ITV, C4 or 5 because the BBC had a contract is the worst kind of spineless platitude to what he must believe is the most stupid fanbase in the world. Now the BBC and Bernie cannot even agree on why this shambolic deal came about? Well, I am going to believe a respected world-wide broadcaster that is highly regulated and publicaly accountable long before I believe anyone in F1. every time I think F1 cannot lower the bar some new mess creeps out of the woodwork.

Soon I won't even be able to say 'it could be worse we could have FIFA!'.


Legally any contract can be changed or cancelled if all parties involved the contract (BBC, FOM) are in agreement to do so.


Yes, so why is Bernie trying to convince us all that poor CVC was held to ransome by the big bad BBC? he does indeed think we are all mugs.


I have been watching GP races from the late sixty's and have decided to mowe on to other things when the sky deal kicks in. As far as I am concerned partial coverage is no coverage. On principal alone I could not bring myself to purchase any Sky product. The BBC / Sky deal brokered by Bernie is just another example of the cornerboy tactics he usually employs. A fine example of the human shark.


Agree. What ever brings in the money regardless of fans.

Bernie is a business money who likes F1. Not a Formula 1 man who dables in business.

Great for making F1 known world wide and for bringing great events, but does bow to the money.

It's why we have money rich countries like China, Russia, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi instead of money poor countries such as Belgium (goodbye friend) and France.

Turkey stayed while it had money and with the money gone, nothing is their to support it and so it goes. F1 is soon just going to be known for leaving tilke tracks to extract money out of a population/government and then leave.

Bernie doesn't see it about legacy of places like Suzuka or Britain (whihc was nearly dropped), he sees them as countries lacking money.

In business if you start to sell your product for less, everyone will want less, if you sell it for more, and sell more (20/21 GP's a year rather than the 15/16 of 20 years ago) then you get more money and make other business people around happy which means you keep your job and your product prospers.

The problem is that Formula 1 fans are bastards and would prefer to watch races in countries that don't bring in the mega dollars.

That means the new events need to bring in more people to cover for those who aren't going to watch new tracks. So that means it needs to bring in the layman, the people woh don't like Formula 1 Racing, hence FOrmula 1 changes to suit them, so the audience stays the same or grows while adding new money rich tracks to build F1 and hence make more money.

That's the simple fact of it. Whether you like it or not, fans like I no longer have a say in what we want. Because everything that has a strength has a weakness and more often than not, they are the same thing... Bernie Eccelstone.


same for me


Same here won't give but will watch bbc/p2p


Persoally I could not sleep at night if I contributed to the Murdoch empire by funding SKY TV.


Even a broadcasting deal in F1 has to have some shady business behind it.



A red button full re-run later in the evening? Ala MotoGP style?

I would actually prefer highlights not on the red button, as i can then atleast record it and not wait for a looped transmission. Red button isn't in HD either is it not?


Just curious, why can't you record the Red Button service? I regularly record the Free Practice sessions on Freeview Channel 301 on my PVR.


Glynn. You don't get a dedicated red button channel on a sky+HD box? or not that I'm aware of. You have to dip into the interactive services of bbc1/2 or HD and wait for a looped transmission to come round to the beginning. And it's not HD.


The Red Button thing is a bit of a mess.

Yes, you can record Ch301 on Freeview,

but lot of the time they don't broadcast what you want there. The BBC gives you more options to watch on Freesat. Alas that works by pressing few buttons, which means it's not possible to SET a recording, though it's possible to record it when you there at the start.

Lot of the time the BBC repeatedly shows 'HD preview' on the BBC HD channel. Why not use it to show the 'Red Button' sport(s), even if they are just up-scaled to HD ?




Hi James

Will those of us in other countries( South Africa and other continents) outside of the UK be affected by this BBC and Sky? I sure do not hope so.

By the way I was listening to some commentary of the 2006 Hungarian GP and.... man it was good to hear you commentate again!


@Eduan, we already pay a premium to watch F1 in South Africa, how could this deal possibly change things in that regard. Instead i'd moan about them trying to hoodwink me by starting to broadcast the races only on the HD channel... SuperSport some of us poor people here in SA don't have HD PVR, we can barely pay the stupid subscription fee.


I totally agree... Supersport packages and prices are ridiculous! If they only put it on HD only that would really be the cherry on the cake! I mean there is no sports package... So you have to pay the full R690 to watch the sport! Really hope we get a counter TV coverage company that will be able to give to us cheaper because the SABC are not going anywhere!


Your national broadcaster will have to buy a commentary from FOM. If Sky and BBC do two different commentaries, they will have a choice


I thought you said that Sky and BBC are sharing commentary James?


How about the best F1 commentary team ever

--John Watson and Ben Edwards....


hmm... maybe But I think they will want atleast 1 commentator with experience from Formula 1, someone who has done it all and isn't new to the job and can go 100% from the start. If not to help get the new team accustomed to the routine, then to get the credit and authority fans will want form a new broadcaster, especially given most peoples prejudices.


unoc12 - it's a bit naive to say that there are only four options for commentators based on experience! There are plenty of motorsport commentators out there that would be considered even if they haven't commentated on F1.

John Watson will be high on their list - he's a Sky commentator through and through, so I am convinced he will be involved in the coverage somehow. I'm just not sure if it will be a commentator role or an EJ-like pundit role.

Ben Edwards will also be very likely for Sky as he commentated on A1GP with Watson. Both did the commentary for F1 Digital in 2002 as well if I recall.

If they could convince Martin Haven to jump ship from Eurosport, I would be pleased.


Of note Brundle has said on his twitter very recently that he hasn't signed on for next year with BBC or Sky.

I'm guessing the tv stations will get commentary from one place and hence BBC and it's 1/2 time job wont be used meaning if your in an English speaking country you (and I) will probably hear either...

a) Sky British commentary

b) UUUnited Sttaetes of Ammmerica with e.s.p.n or speed

I'm hoping the former with Brundle onboard.

JA, if things go seperate ways maybe a job for you will happen? The only commentators that could fill the 4 positions with experience are...

Brundle - heaps and well liked by all

Coulthard - 1 year

Allen - experienced

Legard - who was dropped by mass hatred from fans

That is all really unless someone decides to hire Murray Walker!

Really Legard isn't an option given how he left.

One will have Brundle and _____ and the other ____ and _______. Atleast one experienced probably to atleast gain authority and respect. That probably wouldn't be Coulthard with his few races of experience. I'm guessing you, James would be the one unless they join forces.


No, there is one camp looking to do it that way, but there is another school of thought too


I heard rumours of this yesterday, it will be interesting to see whether this will remain as a minor mention within a general debate or whether a motion for separate debate/investigation will be passed.

I hope it will be the second. Not only is there a massive anti-murdoch feeling at the moment, a huge dissatisfaction with this BBC/SKY deal, but more importantly F1 represents a remarkably successful section of the British economy. It is areas like this which have been highlighted as sectors of the economy which could help stimulate high level manufacturing in the UK. I think the power of F1 to promote high level business interaction should be exploited through the largest markets possible.

I know it seems rather over the top to suggest that this TV deal could damage the whole sport and/or a small, but rather successful area of the economy, but it could. After all the UK has a large history of motor racing and high level engineering. For once I hope that the government will intervene not only so that it can protect the motor racing industry in the UK, but in continued showing of F1 on Free to air TV, a future generation of enthusiastic young people will head to university to study engineering, inspired by F1. It is these people that will help to continue to make the country successful in the future.

This deal doesn't just disenfranchise a whole wave of f1 supporters, but could create wider problems and so I really hope that it will be debated in parliament and then reworked.


I agree entirely with your comments, but I must say that I have very little expectation or hope that this deal can be 're-worked', as you put it. If contracts have been inked, they'd need to be declared illegal to be upset and I doubt that'll happen.

Actually, if the latest statement/rumour is correct, that the Beeb will broadcast the races complete as a recording, I can live with that. It's no different from watching a re-run of the flyaway races at the normal time, as I always have.

What puzzles me about this are the mechanics of it all - if the BBC can broadcast either highlights or the race recorded, in full, surely this means that they are receiving the feed anyway? So the agreement to broadcast it later, or as a highlight program, can only be a commercial agreement to give Sky priority? It must mean that they are receiving the feed for those races from Sky, otherwise they'd have to pay FOM. What a convoluted world we live in - and what a comedown for the BBC!


There is a huge difference. No live timing. You may not use this feature but a lot of us out there do as it adds a whole new dimension to the sport and you get a much better picture of the whole race field


Sooner or later there will be delayed live timing available (or at least, I hope so). So, you cue up the race to watch, then as the lights go out you press "play" simultaneously on the timing, playing it from the start.

I believe there's an iPhone app or similar that can do that already - I might try and find out if anywhere else does it before next year.


The contract doesn't need to be proved "illegal".

It can be voided at any point if all parties agree. Enough negative publicity, and that might just happen.

(But don't - IMO - hold your breath.)



If you both feel like that then you need to get in touch with Don Forster and put you point across ahead of the debate.

+1 to both of you by the way


If the BBC do show a full race re-run, then that would be a lot lot better than highlights. I often due to family commitments watch the races recorded, including last weekends race at Spa, so this wouldn't be much different to what I have now. Although trying to avoid any news about the race, can sometime be difficult!

What we need is clarification of what the BBC will be doing for the races they aren't showing live. I've not seen this anywhere. Can you find out for us James?


I think what James is saying above is that the Beeb may now show the whole race later on a Sunday evening, rather than the "irritatingly edited" highlights first announced. This is a very good thing and will go a long way to appease the established F1 audience.


You're assuming that this will appease a significant proportion of the audience, it most certainly doesn't appease me.

And since F1 seems to be happy to accept Murdoch's money I can safely say that I will not be watching any more as the whole sport is now even more contaminated than it was before.


No, I did not watch the races in Hungary or Belgium. I have read some F1 web site articles, but I most certainly have not watched any TV coverage either live, delayed or on the web.


Yes of course you won't be watching...

Except that you watched the last race even after this deal was announced ages ago. Like everyone else you can talk all you want about a boycott at some vague time in the future but you'll still be watching anyway.


Agreed- the lack of any clear information is almost as infuriating as the sh**ty deal itself.


This is exactly what I want to know. The BBC could have walked away, instead they made this weird pact with a pay broadcaster, presumably to avoid direct comparison/competition with a fellow terrestrial channel.

Having said that, the race at the weekend has started to confirm my opinion that there's maybe more to be irritated about in the BBC F1 pre-race coverage than there is to enjoy.


This is exactly the point Don Foster needs to explore. It's not about whether the deal was fair or not (because obviously to none-Sky subscribers it isn't), but if the BBC acted in the interests of the license fee payer.

If another terrestrial channel was prepared to show live races in full (advert breaks or not), then I believe the BBC had an obligation to sell or hand over the rights to that broadcaster. Why? Because the BBC is funded by the tax payer and therefore must seek to offer the best value to the public, where possible. By still paying millions to show half of what the tax payer used to be able to see entirely for free, when another free-to-air channel was prepared to maintain the status-quo, does not offer the tax payer value for money. Had the BBC walked away and then the same scenario was arranged by Ecclestone for Sky and another broadcaster i.e. ITV/C4/C5 to broadcast races, then at least the BBC would have saved the entire £50m it spends on F1 coverage.

I honestly believe this deal was put together for the benefit of BBC employees more than it was to benefit the viewing public. It must be rather nice having access all areas Grand Prix tickets and I feel this story has shades of the BBC Glastonbury Festival fiasco.

Will this inquiry change anything? Possibly, although I suspect probably not. If the enquiry decides the deal wasn’t in the interests of the public, who is to say the whole deal cannot be scrapped? We don’t know what’s in the small print.

I think the deal will go ahead as planned, but I anticipate any change to it may come from Sky, should estimated viewing/subscribers not back up their investment. F1 isn't as popular or universal as the English Premier League, people won't go to pubs to watch it and outside of big cities, pubs won't show it anyway! For existing Sky subscribers it's a bonus, but that's not who's going to pay for Sky's investment in the sport. The fans writing on blogs like this one, but who aren't currently Sky customers and are saying they won't subscribe either, could prove pivotal to how successful this deal is. As I can tell from reading a lot of these comments, the bitter aftertaste is still lingering.

One final thought. My father, a life long football fan, said to me when football rights were sold to Sky that he’d never subscribe to watch. Over twenty years later he still hasn’t. To me it says two things. One, even die-hard fans, such as us writing on blogs at 9pm on a Saturday night, have our limits, financially and morally. And that sometimes deals go on for longer than we hope or expect..


I haven't watched the pre-race stuff for months, with the exception of Brundle's grid-walk. If that's not on, I go and make a cup of tea. The post-race analysis is fairly good, but only because it's immediate: there's not much you can't get just as well here and on other websites. What I tune in for are qualifying and the race. Anything else is a bonus (including, frankly, free practice; it had novelty value when the BBC first showed it, but the timing is awkward and as a spectator you don't really learn much - nice to have, but I wouldn't pay for it).

I have no objection to Sky per se, only that the price for a season's F1 is going up, putting it out of reach for me and many other fans both current and potential. But I agree: I want to know more about how it came to be. Something smells fishy.


As the deal is signed and sealed, there is nothing, us, the licence payers can do about it, we have no choice but to live with it, but I dont like watching highlights, I like to watch the full race, and hope this will be possible, next season, even if 'time shifted' on the red button, which I use to re-watch the race usually on the Sunday evening...(tho sometimes only in highlight form, depending on what the BBC screen at the time).

It is just plain hogwash what Bernie is saying about not being able to deal with the other Free to air channels, as it was public knowledge that the BBC were ready to pull out of their contract, meaning they would lose all rights, as ITV did when they pulled out of their contract early, and BBC took over...as I have said in the forums before, Bernie was just thinking of the pound signs flashing in front of his rose tinted spectacles, and thinking how much more money he could make out of it, he doesnt care about the fans, just his over inflated bank balance....Rant over.....


Not strictly true - as a public body the BBC's decisions and contracts can be brought under judicial review if said decision/contract is detrimental to the people served by that body. Of course, you'd then have to prove that dropping F1 will be more detrimental than dropping "Hotter than my daughter" or the latest celebrity (I.E. non-entity) karaoke / dance / cooking BS.


So can the average Joe Public, in this case, go to a solicitor, and state his case for a judicial review?...Mind you, I take it if enough sign the E-petition, then a review will be held?, There must be enough of us, judging by forums and social websites, who feel aggrieved enough, for something to be looked into...?


As a backbench MP, Don Foster isn't a member of the Government.


As a member of the Culture, Media & Sports Select Committee Don Foster should be able to get to get the to the facts that led to the BBC striking a deal with Sky. FOM's version of events appear to be different to the BBC's and we atleast should know the truth.

On a personal note, I already have Sky Sports 1 & the Eurosport channels, 2, 3 & 4 are extra. Sky will no doubt put F1 on Sky Sports 2, 3, or 4. I just cannot see them moving Test Cricket or Football in favour of F1.


At last! Unfortunately as you say this will not change the deal but will expose what really happened and will hopefully bring to a head the anger and frustration that we the fans have been trying to vent to no avail.

As a hardened F1 and motorsport fan I will have to find a way to get SKY (listed building not allowed a dish!!) as I will watch F1 and will support F1. My main worry is that the sport will decline quickly and sponsors will see a massive drop in viewers.

I am also aware however that this really only impacts the UK and that tv viewers worldwide have been paying for F1 for years, just a shame that is has been handled so poorly by all involved.


"I am also aware however that this really only impacts the UK and that tv viewers worldwide have been paying for F1 for years,"

This is what annoys me about this whole deal. Ignoring the ethical side of things, I don't object in principle to paying a bit extra to watch F1 if someone has spent money on the rights and is making a business out of selling that on.

It would be better if it stayed FTA, but let's not forget that whether F1 stayed on the BBC or went to C4, we are still having to pay in the form of our licence fee to be able to receive it - something that I believe is unique to the UK, so the "other countries have to pay for it" argument holds less sway in my opinion - we ARE paying for it 🙂

Anyway, if we must pay extra for it, make it a pay-per-view model. I am not prepared to subscribe to a whole host of sports channels just for the one (mainstream) sport I have an interest in, for which there is a single event every two and a half weeks on average over the course of a year.

Other sports are different, with many matches taking place every week throughout the season. That seems to make more sense for a subscription model. F1 is more like the boxing PPV model, but more regular. They could do a "season pass", or a per-event pricing model, then everyone can decide which events they might like to watch - perhaps this will help weed out some of the less than spectacular tracks if they aren't pulling in the required revenue!

Whatever, I do not intend to get a full subscription to an entire raft of sports channels for the whole year just for 10 race weekends (less than one per month!).


The PPV model has been tried before, and died a death. In the early days of interactivity on the Sky Digital platform, races were offered at £10 each with, IIRC, 8 screens of interactivity: in-car views, timing screens, instant highlights etc.

By half way through the season they were offering £50 deals for the remainder of races.

Back in the days of analogue satellite broadcasting, Eurosport used to broadcast all practice sessions, qualifying, the Sunday warm-up up and the race, live, admittedly, with no high production values! But nevertheless, with FTA coverage available, PPV simply couldn't compete.


Just as a point of fact, there are 26 other countries in Europe alone with some form of TV licence fee, nine of which charge considerably more than the UK fee (in Switzerland's case, more than twice as much.)


@ Peter C

Can't help you with the Switzerland questions, but the other Euro countries with larger TV fees are Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Sweden (only eight, not not nine as I said before - I was including Belgium but their's is in fact a little lower than the UK on current exchange rates)


@ Tan Coul

Can you give us any figures for unemployment in Switzerland, also the number of people earning the minimum wage? How many TV viewers of F1?

Also the nine countries in Europe which charge more than UK for a TV licence?

Sorry to ask all this, but I am doing some research into this.


You could errect a mast and fix the dish to that.


Either get Virgin Media (cable) or purchase Sky Sports on freeview for £30 per month. There is also a website (possibly illegal) that shows all Sky Sports channels as well as both Eurosport channels and ESPN.


Overseas the coverage is significantly more affordable than the sky package that will be required in the UK


BT Vision mate...


My gut tells me that this is just another Bernie grab for cash, the spectator at the circuit is not as important as TV ratings, Tv brings in a whole lot more money than bums on seats.


I for one, am very much interested in seeing Thompson account for the supposed deal. Especially so, given the BBC is paid for by the license payer. I think we have a right to know what "Auntie" [the Beeb] is doing with our money.Also, because of the Greedmeister [Ecclestone] and his methods of doing deals delivering news. The guy has a gift for hiding what needs to be heard.

So yes, let's have this out in the open.


Don Foster for PM!


Good man Dan Foster!!!!


Hi brother Don is even better!


Again I despair of F1's treatment of its fans. I have 2 kids and I'm training to be a teacher and after a very tough few years of life in general, as melodramatic as it may sound, watching a full grand prix is a tonic to me.

I cannot justify the expenditure on a sky package and whilst pay to view may be inevitable, I cannot abide the way it was done. Plus the responses from Ecclestone, the BBC and flippant F1 journalists who can easily afford sky, has been a real smack in the face.

I'd settle with a full rerun of the race and I wish somebody would just come out and say that it's definitely happening. I notice Martin Whitmarsh is strangely silent on this issue, despite his asurances early on that full reruns would happen.

I'm sure he's happy now he knows how much cash he'll be getting. Well, wake up F1, we're not happy, tell us what the hell is going on and stop cocking us all about.

From a frustrated F1 fan in Ireland.


THats all very nice, however the bbeb is totally overlooking the fact you dont get the timing with the non live races. This adds a lot more to the coverage as you can really see whats going on. IF they could rerun the timing somehow then it might actually be viable


Ya, I thought about that, It can't be that hard to run a delayed timing on their website along with the delayed rerun.


The paid for timing app on the Ipad/Iphone (possibly android as well?) allows a replay of the live timing. Problem is though, even if they promise to show a full re-run, what's to stop them editing small bits out that are not relevant, thereby ruining the timing sync.


I think it's both the BBC and Bernie that's being sly here. I have a feeling BBC didn't want to lose it so they went to Sky because they knew Bernie would go $.$ but on the other hand, if Bernie really cared about the fans, he could've said bringing Sky in breaches the current contract and allowed other FTA channels to have a go.

It all boils down to money....sigh


BBS wanted to save money, so they went around looking for a way to reduce cost. Bernie would only agree if there was more revenue in it for FOM. So this was the solution BBC themselves likely proposed - aligning the goals of FOM, BBC and Sky. Of course not aligning so much with the F1 fans.

F1 should be free to view - ad supported, but free.


I knew Don Foster a little when I used to work in the Commons. I think you are mis-representing him.

Don is in fact the Lib-Dems' culture, media and sport spokesman, and has been for many years. The BBC and F1 therefore fall well within his main brief.

Probably every politician has a 'track-record of chasing popular causes'. That is, after all, their job. But Don is no rabble-rouser, and no out and out populist. He is one of the more cerebral and rational MPs in the House. Furthermore, probably all Lib-Dem MPs (and, after the phone-hacking scandal, most others of all parties) could be described as 'Anti-Murdoch'.

To characterise Foster's letter to Thompson as both populist and anti-Murdoch is, I'm afraid, a little wide of the mark. Is it another instance of those within the F1 bubble not fully understanding why those of us who can only watch races on TV feel so strongly about the BBC/Sky deal?


Thanks for your comments. However your points in para two confirm that what I wrote is not inaccurate. Most politicians chase popular causes and he sponsored a bill against Murdoch and News International. So I'm not mis-representing him, am I?


I find the fact that you titled the post in this way to be quite odd to be honest - it suggests more than a little cynicism with the story which is a shame considering your promotion of fan forums etc. I think this case is exactly the thing most fans want to hear about ... getting the truth behind this story.

Anyway, I too love the blog so don't take this too personally!


You've missed my point


I guess it's the inference that Don's supposed anti-Murdoch stance, and the allegation that he's a populist, somehow make his points to Thompson less valid. 'However, Foster also has a track record...'. In my old job, we would have called it 'spin'.

In addition to being supported by a range of MPs across all parties, the motion against BSkyB (not a Bill) was proposed by Ed Miliband. One wouldn't necessarily headline him as 'anti-Murdoch', nor would it count against him as a track record. And the motion was agreed unanimously by MPs - so in that sense they were all anti-Murdoch! As indeed most people were at the height of the phone hacking scandal.

I may well be being overly wary of your presentation here - but between headlining Foster as 'Anti-Murdoch' (rather than, say, 'Senior coalition MP'), and the subsequent description of him, it seemed to me to be unfairly characterising him.

Anyway, end of mini political lecture. Love the blog!


James, would you care to turn your journalistic skills to this report.


I can't find reference to it anywhere else on the web, but it does look like a *small* victory to those of us without sky.


Did Mr E not say the BBC could do full reruns when the announcement was first made?

If The BBC also show a full rerun of qualifying and practice I'm a happy bunny.


"If The BBC also show a full rerun of qualifying and practice I’m a happy bunny."

That's something that occurred to me - correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that anyone has stated what the BBC will show, if anything, of practice and quali for the weekends it isn't showing the race live.

I suspect that probably quali (and definitely practice) will not be shown.


Apparently they will be showing at least 'extensive' highlights of qualifying.



That was the chat in Spa; red button reruns


In my view this deal suited everyone in f1. Teams and bernie get more money. It will change the way f1 is watched gradually rather than just moving it straight to sky. The BBC is also happy as it keeps the main races and f1 at a reduced price although not in an exclusive way.

The key thing here for it to work is the product to remain good then when the inevitable move to sky happens everyone pays.


And those saying BBC should have walked away are fooling themselves. Bernie would have to let them walk away, and that just isn't going to occur.

BBC put this together as a way to reduce their F1 costs and paid Bernie to accept it. Did anyone confirm or find out how much BBC will pay in 2012 vs. 2011?


At last!

further quotes in this link which shows the gulf between FOM and BBC versions of events



Be interesting to see what this throws up.

Many unanswered questions on what is a farcical agreement.

From what i understand the general consensus was that the only reason it went to Sky at all is because the BBC refused to allow the coverage to go to Channel 4 - on a deal that Bernie had apparently said was acceptable.

If this is true then the BBC has willingly dismissed it's funders (us) in order to hold the bragging rights over it's free-to-air rivals, in which case they deserve to be hated just as much as Sky themselves, as they obviously hold no regard for the public they are supposed to provide for.

If however this is not the case then we deserve to know how the deal was arranged in the first place - does anyone remember how Martin Whitmarsh was quoted on this very site saying the deal was 'cautiously good news' on the basis that Bernie assured him it was tape delayed FULL coverage rather than highlights? Funny how absolutely nothing was said when it became clear that it was indeed only highlights. Is there one person lying about the deal here? Or is EVERYONE lying about the deal? Either way, it's still only the fans that lose out. Hopefully f1 will live to regret this sooner or later.

James - where does the possibility of it still being full delayed coverage come from? I will be astonished if Sky allow this.....


Their (BBC, FOM, FOTA) silence on these issues is deafening. Yet again they insult us, and anger us even more, by thinking their silence will make us all just forget about it, and eventually accept it.

Thanks to James for writing this article and bringing back into focus.



Does this mean we will find out who was telling the truth and who was BSing....it might shed light on what I think went down, that being Bernie did not tell all what happened and was behind it ALL>


We realise it will not change anything, but the culprit should be made to squirm.

I believe that this change was mainly political in nature due to the BBC bosses being frustrated at not being allowed the license fee increases they wanted.


I think questions need to be asked and answered about Mark Thompson's links with Sky.


I hadnt heard the last comment in your article - about the BBC showing a full race re-run a few hours after the event.

If this were the case I`m sure alot of fans would drop their objections. Apart from having to avoid overhearing the results, it would be a palatable compromise.

I know that I often/mostly record the race on our Hard Drive box, and watch at my lesiure through the day. Otherwise, including pre race hit chat and post race analysis - its quite a few hours to be stuck in front of live TV! BUT I never want to miss any action / gossip / news etc.

Lets wait and see, and hope a pragmatic decision is made.....


As someone who has no intention to subscribe to Sky to see F1, but who doesn't want to watch highlights either, I'd be delighted if the races not shown live on the BBC were shown instead in full, but delayed - even without the current buildup and anlaysis we currently get. However, I'd be very surprised if Sky were to agree to it - surely they would be losing one of their advantages?


It is great news that the e-petition has brought this matter to the attention of people who can at the very least dig beneath the press statements and find out what the real workings behind the deal were.

Sadly it makes no different at all! Even if the race is shown in it's entirety later in the day it's never quite going to be the same. I can imagine a scenario where the race is on Sky at 1pm, there is a BBC news bulletin at 3pm announcing the winner and then a BBC advert afterwards promoting the re-run of the race.

I also do not believe Ecclestone couldn't have gone with ITV or 4 because there were two seasons left on the deal, I thought he was the sort of man who could make things happen even if a contract was in place? Perhaps I'm being too critical on this point though.

When all is said and done the deal is done now! Sky Sports subscription next March here we come!


The full letter from the MP explains very well the objections and contradictions in this deal, and there is nothing that is overtly anti-Murdoch. Fantastic response from the MP - much respect to him. And even if he is anti-Murdoch, none can blame him at all and makes a change from the usual sucking up to him that most MPs do.


I'm sorry but you Brits really take the cake on an overindulged sense of entitlement. What with 00.8% of the worlds population and yet having a parliamentary review of a free market business deal that the only downside of is now you have to pay to watch formula 1 live. Except you still get half the races free. I admit it's not quite as daft a us yanks having the congressional hearing on steroid use in baseball, but seriously, most countries have pay to watch F1 and so far the sky has not fallen (no pun intended).


To everyone above, honestly £145 for a whole year isn't that much. You spend more per week running the aircon in your house or keeping your beer cold in the fridge. I'm not 100% sympathetic as my cable package when you include all the extras tacked on to get SPEED (only channel with live f1 over here) it probably costs close to 4-5 time your monthly licence fee, although the fiber optic Internet connection that got bundled in sure is nice. Still it's pennies as most people spend more on lunch everyday than you spend for a month of telly. Stop whining.


It's not about the £145 we already pay, it's about the EXTRA we are being asked to pay on top of that for ten, yes 10 races per year, which equates to about £50 per race!

Not everyone can afford or justify that kind of money over here, or would WANT to pay it. And that's forgetting the moral and ethical issues a lot of people have with Sky and the Murdochs.

So, stop whining about us whining!


It's not about the £145 we already pay, it's about the EXTRA on top of that we are now being asked to pay to watch ten, yes 10, races per year. That equates to about £50 per race! That's not something everyone can afford over here, nor would WANT to pay. And that's forgetting about the moral and ethical issues a lot of people have with Sky and the Murdochs. So stop whining about us whining!


We dont have air con in our houses (but we do have heating!)

I understand the US point of view but to put it in terms the US understand we are taxed on "free" to air TV, since in order to watch any TV we must pay the licence fee. This includes where you cannot watch TV but can only stream off the internet.

The UK uproar is that the BBC, a company we own through our taxes, has put our interest second to theirs in so far as they have prevented other free to air broadcasters from competing in the free market, by doing a deal with SKY and Bernard, effectively making us pay twice.

I dont see what out % of the world population has to do with things, but if we pay for it via tax we are entitled to recieve it.


Saw Speed's F1 viewing figures the other day - sub 750,000 per race. In ESPN days it was over twice that


And therein lies one of the problems - if viewing figures drop, what do you think is the most likely outcome James? Withdrawal of sponsors? Withdrawal of teams?

devilsadvocate - We wouldn't expect you to be sympathetic, as we know US citizens are sold pretty much everything, from cold air to healthcare. We sympathise with you but, at the same time, resent that many aspects of UK culture seem to be going the way of the free market as they have already done for you in the US. We like our National Health Service, and our Public Service Broadcaster, and feel aggrieved when such services turn out to be not so public-minded as we idealise.

To contextualise it, I'm sure, if put on the spot, we'd all express far more concern about floods in Nigeria and famine and civil war in East Africa.


In the UK, we have to pay a licence fee to the BBC every year, just to own a television (or any device capable of receiving a broadcast signal) even if we don't watch a single second of anything the BBC broadcasts. Only ever watch DVDs you've bought, but need a TV to play them on? Pay the BBC.

It is therefore essentially a tax.

You say you are from North America. North Americans (in fact, ANY non-UK citizen) are usually shocked by such a situation and wonder why we put up with it.

The ire you are seeing from the UK people here is due to the fact that the very corporation that receives that tax money from us has decided that it is "in our best interests" that it now shows us half of what they had previously agreed to, and we now have to pay a lot of money to another company from next year in order to view what they originally negotiated to show us for those "tax dollars" for two more years.

So, we ARE already paying, but now we need to pay more. As it's a tax (and you can theoretically go to prison for not paying it), we can't decide to NOT pay them next year in order to spend the money on SKY instead.

I don't think that counts as "an overindulged sense of entitlement". I don't mind paying to view my entertainment, but I do object to paying twice.


We don't get races free, we pay £145 a year for a licence plus, if we want to watch all the races live we will have to have a Sky subscription and pay upwards of £600 a year on top of the licence fee. You Yanks really take the biscuit.


No, the Sky deal means Brits have to pay TWICE to watch F1, I doubt many countries do that.

Brits PAY for the BBC, and now will have to PAY Sky, that's a double payment.


No chance sky will let bbc run delayed full re-runs.No one would pay for sky, everyone would just avoid hearing the result and for sky it would be a waste of £45 million.


I don't think sky will have much say in the matter, I heard it was in the contract.


Anti-Murdoch? Isn't everyone outside of News Corp 'Anti-Murdoch'?


More or less!

As I remember it, the motion James refers to was actually supported by all the main political parties, and Murdoch did indeed withdraw his bid for BSkyB.

So, to be honest, I don't understand why James is labelling this guy "anti-Murdoch" as if to question his objectivity.


Agree, I don't understand this labeling the guy "anti Murdoch" either.

I wasn't overly impressed when seen that title from a usually top notch intelligent blog.


agreed ... shame


Another round of finger pointing and rhetoric, after which nothing will change. No laws have been broken, a deal is signed sealed and thats all folks...


Enough with all the complaining. In the US we have to pay - Speed TV is on cable and costs extra for the package that includes it.

Without Speed channel I have no need for that package of channels. Without it I would only pay the cost of basic cable service, which roughly equates to the cost of the license in the UK. Without a paid for delivery, we would not get F1 on TV in the US - apart maybe from 4 time delayed broadcasts of Monaco et al on Fox....hey, that's a Murdoch channel.


Get used to it.


Well good for you! See post #31


See post #31, we have every right to complain!




The Channel 4 deal would see the teams receive just £90,000 less than the Sky/BBC deal ... It's plain to see the Sky/BBC deal was done for reasons other than an extra £90,000 per team (if averaged out).

The Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport select committee 'grilling' is unlikely to achieve anything, but at least it may have made the BBC offer full race re-runs, in an attempt to placate the anger, although now Sky are angry at the BBC.


You talk about £90,000 per team like it's chump change yet you are moaning about paying £40 to wath a race live?

90k may not be a whole lot for a team like Ferrari or Mclaren or even RBR buy it still is enough to hire an engineer or two or a few extra days of testing which is golden for the teams in the middle to back of the grid.


£90K is nothing to a team spending £300,000,000. Ferrari spent £45,000 on a paddock party.

And remember the teams that finish outside the top 10 won't see any of the Sky money, but they would have benefited from "More commercial opportunities for teams through sponsorship and ad-funded content." that Channel 4 were offering.


That should be £45,000 on a paddock party 🙂


MP letter in full - hope the link is acceptable for the site, James.



I hope Don foster does get to the bottom of this and expose the deal. F1 certainly seems to be turning it's back on it's fans in the UK.


@devilsadvocate - But we already pay. That's the point. We have to pay for a mandatory TV license that funds the BBC. Its illegal to watch TV without one even if you don't watch the BBC (I'm not kidding). Now we're faced with paying extra for the 10 races not being shown by the BBC. A Sky subscription works out at £600 per year - that's £60 per race (about $US100)! You can't cancel your TV license and subscribe to Sky instead. You have to pay both.That's why we're angry!!


I'm from the netherlands and I always watch the coverage through the BBC, and I'm massively dissappointed about this deal. The dutch coverage is not very good and not so expansive! I'll hope he sorts it out and find something dirty so that the deal is off!


James, you wrote :

"It is unlikely that the hearing will change much as the deal is signed and doesn’t violate any anti-competition laws, but at least F1 fans will get a definitive answer about why the BBC went into this deal"

Do you know for a fact that the deal is signed? This one of many straight questions to which the BBC won't give a straight answer. Cheers.


red button? what does that mean? is it on the iplayer like the post race forum as is currently the case?


When watching digitally you can press red button. I.e. the old teletext quick link button and see extra stuff. If your interested you can watch the practice sessions live. I often have it in in the background.


but is it on iplayer though? see, i don't watch races live anyway, unless it's one of those late races.


Red button is for tv. Sorry I can't comment on BBC's iplayer. I don't use it.


The Red Button content includes - live practice sessions - Friday FP1, FP2 & Saturday FP3, for all races, accompanied by commentary from the BBC 5Live Extra team. Then, live, immediately after live race coverage finishes, the F1 Forum is broadcast. Replays of all FP1&2 sessions usually run looped until the FP3 begins; replays of qualifying run looped for about 24hrs, and replays of the race (in full and highlights) are usually run looped for a couple of days following broadcast.

The iPlayer makes Qualifying, Race and Forum available for 7 days following broadcast (or 30 days if you choose to download).

FP1, FP2, FP3, Qualifying and the Race are also all shown live via the BBCF1 section of the BBC Sport website.

Hope that's helpful.


"Anti-Murdoch MP" Is that really a key part of the story? A clarification of the back room dealing is surely worthwhile whoever asks the question.

It reads like an attempt to trivialise the question as if it is just some crank on a crusade.

I would hope most MPs would be anti-Murdoch given the recent light shed on his organisation's activities.

There again this is probably another post that won't reach the website!


Ha ha. Nice one James.

For notes Phil J the article says he is anti-Murdoch due to sponsorship of a members bill against NOTW in the Commons. Therefore comments are fair.


Funny how we never heard of anti-Murdoch MPs before NOTW problems and now they are all out for their 5 minutes.

And its all 2 months too late. Now we will all have to sit through another toothless Parliamentary Select Committee meeting.

The truth is the £140 doesn't represent good value for money in the modern age unless shared between all terrestrial channels.


So much claim and counter-claim, and still no info. Will the BBC be showing qualifying? Will they show any practice coverage (online and/or red button)? Etc.

And then there's the question about which Sky Sports channels will be used for F1 - SS1 and 2 are available on freeview (albeit with a subscription and smart card), but for all we know Sky may put half of the sessions / coverage / races on SS3 or 4.

When will we actually get some information that BBC, Sky and Mr E all agree on?


James, I'm interested to know how many of your readers already have Sky Sports (like myself) and therefore won't be affected by this deal. How about one of your polls with the question being "Do you currently have a Sky Sports subscription" with a simple yes or no answer to choose from.

And thanks for the reply after meeting you at Spa!


Very interested to know the number of new subscribers SKY expect to attract. If a good %'age of existing SKY Sports customers watch the F1 because it is there then SKY have bought a sport that does not generate new income.

If BBC do show full race re-runs in the evening then surely there will be a small take up of SKY subscriptions and SKY will quickly realise they have bought a lemon. It happened when they tried digital covereage before, if the BBC do a decent job of the re-runs then what is to stop it happening again?


Maybe break the "no" answers down to "no and won't be getting it" and "no and I will be getting it" ?



If you do this poll can you subdivide the no vote to ask whether they will buy Sky to watch F1


James. The BSKYB deal was just as done as this one... until it unraveled in the light of day once News Corps phone hacking scandal went stratospheric. In the same way, this could very well blow up ... all depends on how much a public rowe is made. Greed never seems to have any boundaries.


I realise the funding of F1 is very complex but the basic business model relies on the teams attracting sponsorship. The sponsors know they can get worldwide exposure nearly every other weekend thrhough free to air TV, a significant proprtion of which is sourced from the BBC. Current UK TV audience for F1 in the UK is around 6 million, full package Sky sports subscribers are hovering around the 2 million. How are team going to attract blue chip sponsors if the audience is going to be reduced by nearly 70% in the UK, one of the world's richest countries? Am I missing something?


I don't agree. The teams are struggling to find sponsorship so are looking to get revenue from elsewhere - this is why no team has come out against the deal.

Also the main GP's are going to be shown live on terrestrial tv. Only the races that the real fan would watch aren't going to be shown. Also you have to remember f1 is a global sport and doesn't just revolve around the UK.


Also, those who can't get Sky.


But the extra Sky money will only go to the top 10 teams, as per usual, but all the sponsors will suffer, if 2010 UK brand exposure figures are taken into account, and assuming Sky gets less than 1 million viewers, the loss of UK brand exposure to F1's sponsors per race will be £3.4 million.

Marrusia Virgin have expressed disquiet about the deal, as they won't see any of the Sky money.


Your clearly right that the lower end teams are going to be struggling. This is something that certainly needs looking at - unless of course we want an f1 with 20 competitive cars?

Unfortunately you can throw as many numbers at me as you wish but the problem is the extra revenue to be gained from this sky deal and potential sky deals in the future way outstrips sponsorship. if this wasn't the case then the teams would be opposed to this deal - which by there silence on the matter clearly shows there not.


The expected loss of combined brand exposure to all F1 sponsors, when 2010 UK viewing figures are taken into account, and assuming Sky attracts less than 1million viewers is £3.4million per race.


Excellent news! Hitting the sport and the teams in the wallet is the only thing that can change this, UK F1 fans should ensure that they withhold their eyeballs until the decision is reversed.


How do you get that figure?


Brand awareness calculation, based on the 2010 UK brand exposure figures.

The biggest losers will be Red Bull, as they had 2 teams and 2 titles.

If STR were still to be sponsored by Red Bull in 2012, the total Red Bull UK brand exposure loss for the season, is estimated to be £19.8 million.

We have all 141 sponsors brand exposure figures, for every race, in all major territories, so it's an easy calculation, but will only be verified once the 2012 season is under way.

It could be much worse, it all depends on how many new viewers Sky can get, that's not people watching on Sky rather than the BBC, because that wouldn't change anything, it's all about not losing viewers by hiding F1 away on Sky.

As we've seen the recent Belgian GP highlights show on BBC2 achieved only 758,000 viewers, now BBC1 will undoubtedly get more in 2012, but will they hold onto a 58% share? The BBC2 share was only 4.5% ... If that was carried over (unlikely) it would be a disaster for F1.


Please please please BBC. Show a full race. If your not lurking here testing the waters, then you should be.


I attended my first F1 race at Silverstone in 1973 at the age of 9 and have been a massive fan ever since. I even managed in later years to coerce the Mrs into following F1 and then subsequently my son who attended his first GP at 10 months!

As a family we are extremely passionate about F1, but this BBC/Sky dodgy deal really is the straw that broke the camels back. I had a quite basic package with Sky for £22.50 a month, which I have been threatening to cancel for some time as we do not watch any Sky channels and only really use the Sky + facility. I cancelled my subscription last weekend and was told by the lady, trying to persuade me to stay with Sky for 20 minutes, that they would show F1 on Sky Sports News!!! I still declined her offer and advised her that I wasnt going to get full coverage on a news channel!

So I guess I will just put up with whatever we end up with as Bernie will ALWAYS get his own way. Of course he knew nothing about the deal did he? Otherwise how would the contract date be extended to 2018?!?

Edited highlights, full highlights, red button. Money talks and the true fans will lose out and the casual fans will lose interest.

BBC/Sky deal - Bernie's biggest mistake.


Is it possible Bernie is playing us all for fools? F1 will remain on the BBC as per the current contract. The hype at the moment is Bernie's way of demonstrating to the UK, the government and the BBC what a valuable commodity they have and that is worth far more than he is asking them to pay?

Here's hoping!!!


Wow sucks to live in the UK. Being from Australia this deal does not really affect me. But I do feel for people in the UK.


I wouldn't mind so much if paying for sky meant I didn't have to pay for BBC...but there's no way I'd pay for both! If I had a choice though, my loyalty is still with BBC regardless of finances.


What I would suggest is that we pay one fee to F1 (and not BBC or SKY).

F1 will re-distribute the money to

(1) the TV networks,

(2) the teams and

(3) the circuits.

This way we are not just paying the TV channels, but also the teams and circuits (we love). Please, let's make F1 accessible and democratic. Make it one (low) fee per race.


We should be paying the circuits instead. I'd love to pay by race if I could help the struggling circuits.

Stories like the financial woes of Spa break my heart. I am horrified by Alesi's proposal: http://www.itv.com/formula1/news/2011/9/jean-alesi-sees-merits-of-mooted-spa--france-race-share-deal/

Please let us vote with our money and let us pay by race! Boring circuits will get punished by the tv audience, great tracks will get a welcome extra income.


I don't pity Spa at all - after attending the race there over the weekend I found it to be the most expensive of all the circuits I'd ever been to (and I've been to a few, but not Monaco which I know is very expensive). For example, a sausage in a roll was €6, a portion of chips was €5 and then if you wanted a squirt of sauce it was an extra €1 on top. A 500ml can of beer was €5 and they even had people on the doors at the permanent toilets to collect 70 cents from people - no wonder the forest is such an attractive place to relieve oneself!

Compared to places such as Hungary (approx £2.50 for a can of beer) or Silverstone (approx £3.70 for a pint) Spa was a rip off. And ticket prices were considerably more than other circuits I've been to, I thought after seeing similar high prices in Brussels (€1.95 for a cheeseburger compared to 99p here)that Belgium must be an expensive country overall but then I read in Tom Bower's Bernie Ecclestone biography that "At the Spa circuit... Ecclestone had negotiated 'ownership' of the F1 race for ten years at no cost, and kept income from the gate receipts, the catering and even the lavatories' so maybe it's just a case of knowing that if people want food/drink/toilet enough they'll pay for it.


Maybe that has more to do with the current value of the gb pound. Euroland is just plain expensive.


Don't get me wrong mate, the track itself is amazing and has some of the best views I've ever seen at a grand prix. Only downside was the inflated cost of everything! I'm considering going to Monza this weekend, hopefully it won't be so expensive!


I am sorry to hear about the miserable catering in Spa. However, the circuit remains one of the most spectacular ones to drive: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2011/09/01/f1-fans-videos-belgian-grand-prix/


The BBC is one of the few organisations i trust even less than FOM.

On this occasion i really would not be surprised if Bernie and FM are intact telling us the truth that it was the BBC who approached them about changing their rights deal in order to save money.


If that is the case then surely the deal can be brought under judicial review for not acting in the best interests of the service users, eg. the license payer...


It galls me as a follower of F1 to stick up for the BBC. At the end of the day the BBC are admitting that they don't have the money to afford F1 for the foreseeable future.

The reason that they don't have the money is because the Government has frozen the licence fee for the next few years - so without increased income how are the BBC expected to pay for everything that they currently produce? On the grounds the costs to continue to rise then something had to give. F1 is one of the things that has been hit - from the BBCs point of view they have to go for the biggest saving affecting the least number of viewers - F1 is one of those, I expect that somewhere they have a price per minute cost of all their programmes and will be extremely suprised if F1 isn't somewhere near the top of the list.

Yes they could scrap ooh lets pick Eastenders - that probably costs a good amount to make but with an audience share considerably higher than F1 and very likely lower cost per view ratio - of course it won't be scrapped.

As I pointed out to my wife last weekend, it is probably the last time I will see the Belgian GP live - but it is not the end of the world. I hope that the BBC will be able to run a delayed transmission of the race, in the evening would be ideal.

As for Sky, well I won't take out a Sky contract nor will I pay 30 odd a month for TopUp TV to get SkySports via Freeview. What I would consider though is Pay per View - that worked relatively well previously and then I can pick and choose the races that I see and watch those ones live. At the most it will be 10 races, in reality I would probably at the most pay up for half of them if the BBC did a delayed transmission. After all does anyone really enjoy Valencia?


'from the BBCs point of view they have to go for the biggest saving affecting the least number of viewers – F1 is one of those'

Please explain your reasoning for this comment. F1 viewing figures have increased dramatically with the improved BBC coverage and helped by better on track racing and 2 British WDC's.

I think average figures are around 6 million, one of the most watched productions on the Beeb. Many many useless, trashy programmes on the Beeb (BBC3 in particular that will barely reach 100,000 viewers) that could have been axed to help save money. I know F1 costs a huge amount but is not best to preserve the best output and get rid of the rubbish!


Maybe the BBC could scrap Casualty, which costs £255,000 per hour more than F1, and gets nearly 2 million less viewers ... It's not as if it's a unique or original programme.

Or they could simply not commission the X-factor copycat cat show 'The Voice', which just by coincidence costs about the same as the BBC are saving by cutting in half F1.

Or maybe not spend £13 million on taxis for BBC staff ... The F1 decision was nothing to do with money, it was to with with the BBC Trust's report showing that F1 was now the BBC's best performing and most cost effective sport, and that didn't sit well with the anti-F1/pro-ball games clique operating within the BBC.


Auntie Beeb approached Bernie and Sky.

Rather than loose out to Channel 4 which is totally free to air (the license fee doesn't support it) they went into bed with Sky.

The BBC are a disgrace - nigh on every household in the UK is forced to pay for them and they would rather us pay again to watch F1 than loose to a no threat free to air broadcaster 🙁

I for one look forward to them been forced into total disclosure over this, up to now they have hidden behind Competition Contract legislation. Now the MP's are involved here we go 🙂

The Beeb is now trying to calm (avoid further enquiries) the situation by offering red button full race coverage.

Whilst I hate to say it, so far it would appear Bernie has done nothing wrong. He always said they could show the whole race. He has said repeatedly free to air etc.

Sky, whilst I despise the murdoch empire appear to just want F1 and who can blame them. If the Beeb approached them allowing them to get the foot in the door then fair game. No subscription is coming from my house though!


What I can't work out is why the BBC didn't just cut their production costs on F1. Much as I like Jake, DC and Eddie, they are really just fluff. Ultimately all we want to see is the coverage which could be commented on from a studio in the UK. This would mean all the Beeb would really be paying would be the rights money to show the FOM feeds. Saving made, F1 still FTA and fans appeased.


Wouldn't have saved enough. Production is about £10m, rights almost five times that.


Rights cost started at just above £33 million, not £50 million.


Don Foster should also write to Channel 4 and ask them if they were really in a position to pick up and run the BBC contract on the same terms, at least for the first two seasons.

Whilst I make full use of the limited interactive services currently avaiable such as the in-car feeds and live timing, none of these are going to be available, even on a full race re-run.

Although Channel 4 coverage would have given us interactive services for every race, it would almost certainly have brought the return of commercial breaks during the races.

I'm pretty sure that most UK fans would very reluctantly prefer no avoid advertising breaks at the expense of half the events being time delayed, full re-runs.

None of these options is anything like as good as what we currently have.

The BBC should be ashamed at the way they are playing politics here : In the forlorn hope that the government would be blamed for enforcing cuts, they have broken the trust of the viewer and sold out to Sky.

Instead of selling out, they should have cut a few more top salaries and further reduced their bloated staff numbers.


James....I dont see that he is ani Murdoch, hes just asking sensible questions.

Just remember it ant over till the fat lady sings and until shes finished her last breath the UK F1 fans will keep getting sensible MPs and others to fight their corners. The way this deal has been done is WRONG.


Agreed that it's good the background comes out (if it does) but his past actions give critics some ammunition to say there's an agenda here ie nit like a disinterested person raised the issue


For the sake of clarity, why don't you list those past actions. Then people can judge for themselves whether he can be called 'anti-Murdoch'.


The real issue here is that someone is not telling the truth about how this deal came about and I think the fans have a right to know whose idea this particular deal was. The BBC seemed almost proud that they had "saved" FTA coverage after the deal was announced but is it really just a trojan horse, tow-in-the-water exercise to see if F1 fans will take out enough Sky subscriptions to go fully onto pay TV in future but leaving the back door ajar for a return to FTA should sufficient sponsors vote with their feet?

I also don't understand the red button race re-run - I thought the BBC had the entire red button service in the firing line as a cost saving? Still I won't be waiting three hours to watch highlights or a race re-run for the result - would any real fan? I would be too tempted to just look it up on the web or maybe listen to 5Live then just not bother watching it later - why waste 2 hours of your life when you could see the result instantly or had already heard it on the news, it's just not the same; this scenario reminds me of that episode of "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads" where Bob & Terry had to avoid all their friends, radio & TV for a day in order to avoid finding out the results of the England game so they could enjoy the highlights on TV later but this isn't the 1970s - news is now even available on a phone, try avoiding the result for 3 hours - no chance...


Purely from a selfish point of view as someone that has Sky & Sky Sports, Im actually looking really forward to F1 on Sky.

Why? because I believe they will provide much better coverage on than we have on the BBC now & what we likely would have got on ITV/C4/C5.

With the brief description Sky have already given in the initial annoucement it sounds as if were going to get more in-depth coverage across the full Sky sports platform & it also sounds (Based on autosport magazine) like we will get the full support package shown live & in full (Something EuroSport currently regularly fails at).

Obviously this deal sucks for those without Sky but as I said purely from the selfish POV of someone with Sky I think the coverage is going to be great & im really looking forward to it.


I believe that Bernie says, when asked, what he thinks viewers want to hear, cleverly, ambiguously, so that he's not actually lying. I would hear him answer with openness and clarity.

Similarly, I think the statement from Neil Land, saying ...

"Ultimately, it is the responsibility of FOM [Formula One Management] to decide which broadcasters cover the sport. FOM must decide what is in the best interests of the sport, its employees, manufacturers, sponsors and viewers - when choosing its broadcast partners. On this occasion, FOM decided that a broadcast partnership between the BBC and Sky was in the best interests of the sport."

... is ambiguous too. This statement doesn't preclude the possibility that the BBC and Sky worked out the deal and placed it on FOM's desk for their perusal. Yes, 'ultimately' it is FOM's responsibility to decide what's best. Bernie may well be telling the truth that the BBC and Sky came to them with the proposal, and Neil Land may well be being truthful that FOM 'decided' that it was 'in the best interests of the sport'.

It strikes me that, unless the right questions are asked, we might not learn a lot, and both sides will be exonerated. I hope the MPs do their research!

One thing we should remember, maybe, is that Murdoch was blocked from having a controlling share in BSkyB. As much as we think of him and Sky as one and the same, he's not. My issue is not with him (annoyingly - I'd like it to be!) -it's with Bernie and the Beeb.

James - do you have access to details about the financials of the C4 and ITV offers?


*I would LIKE TO hear him answer ..."*


I'm just going to buy sky. Issus goes away then! And I wont bother to watch any off the races on the bbc. Done


All we want to know is......

What coverage are we going to see on the BBC?

With this knowledge we can make our minds up on which way to watch.



I live in Belgium and I always watch the BBC coverage, cause the Belgian coverage is crap!

It's an absolute shame what BBC has done, not only they spit in the face of millions of F1 fans all over the world. They even don't seem to care about it... .

Don't just hide behind money and budget issues. Why have they even bought the rights from ITV in the first place? Only to have 3 full seasons. Yes the show they brought was fantastic and their access to drivers, team principals, pit, is why I watched in the first place. But now when people are psyched about F1 since a long long time, they choose for a very bad solution. I was a fan of the BBC and had nothing but respect but now, pff they let us down boys, bigtime!!!!!



out of interest, will you watch on Sky? (sky+) obviously, or the Beeb reruns...

laurence hartland

How about a compromise? The bbc has a pay per view F1 channel. Then we wouldnt have to buy sky dishs. Subscription should be cheaper than sky as we are already paying for 10 grand prix's through our licence fee. We know the coverage standards of BBC. Could work..............

mohamed south africa

when did everyone in the uk get so poor that url crying for a measly 60 quid a month. so much for being a first world country


60 quid might be measly to you, but it's actually a lot to some people.


Unfortunately for the UK viewers, but F1 has moved on. The future lies in developing countries which have populations far higher than the UK. The attendence and viewing figures have been dropping for years (you could argue due to possible gouging!) so the focus is shifting East. Thats why in my opinion, so long as F1 has a presence for the rusted on viewers, the establishment could not really care less what people in the UK think. That just brings them into line with how a lot of other countries' fans have been treated for years rather than being singled out for some special treatment.

mohamed south africa



James, I know that you have some affiliation with the current Asutralian broadcaster that takes the BBC feed this year. Have you heard how they will approach next year, or is it still too early to tell given that we don't know what's going on in the UK (if Brundle doesn't know who he's working for and if we'll have a 'common' commentary team, then you probably can't answer my question, but it's worth asking)...


They are waiting to see how it shakes out, like everybody else


This deal is obviously bad for F1 fans, who feel cheated, but it is also bad for F1.

The other major market where F1 was once 100% on free to air TV, but is now on a mixture of Pay TV and free to air is Japan. As JA pointed out recently, viewer numbers in japan have plummeted from a very healthy base (when F1 was 100% free to air). There is even talk that F1 may even drop the Japanese round. The lesson is clear: if F1 is taken from free to air, public support for the sport will drop. I'm sure the sponsors will be aware of this.


This article in the Independant today appears to show that the BBC will not show full replays later in the day (No mention of red button though). Seems to imply they are limited to only being able to show 75mins of the race.....

Ecclestone cuts BBC coverage

By Christian Sylt

Monday, 5 September 2011

Ecclestone owns the rights to F1

Formula One executive Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that the BBC will not broadcast full reruns of the 10 races which it is not showing live next year. From 2012, Sky will broadcast all races live while the BBC's live coverage will be restricted to 10 of the 20-race calendar.

In July Ecclestone confirmed to Formula One's teams that the BBC would broadcast every race in full after it has taken place. The McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, said "Bernie assured me, and I asked him several times, the deferred coverage will not be highlights, it will be a full race. That, to some fans, will be very important."

However,in a U-turn, Ecclestone said yesterday: "The BBC will broadcast 75 minutes of every race."


From my point of view if the BBC can show the full race in the evening and/or post it on iPlayer then I'll be happy. I'm quite often out and about on a Sunday and often watch the race later on iPlayer so it won't be much different to me.

A lot of people have been criticising Bernie for being 'money-hungry', and there's some truth in that but its worth remembering that although he has a stake in F1 himself, he is employed by the majority stakeholder CVC as the CEO, so if he didn't try to get the best deal for F1 financially then he wouldn't be doing his job.


something worth remembering when talking about what the viewing figures will be next year is that the BBC Highlights will be on around 6pm.

This could actually bring an increase in viewers as more people tend to be watching tv at that time of day/evening. In fact I believe that the viewing figures right now tend to be higher for the races on at around that time of day.

The live figures for Sky exclusive races will be lower, However the BBC highlights may not see as big a drop as many expect for the reasons stated above.

Something else to consider is that its likely they will look at combined figures rather than just the figures from Sky or the BBC. This is what is regularly done in Germany when talking viewing figures, they just combine the RTL & Sky Germany figures or come up with an average using the 2, They never single out figures from one broadcaster or the other.


Perhaps the UK viewers could spare a thought for those in the rest of the world who are used to substandard and suboptimal coverage and count themselves lucky for how good they had it for so long.

I live in a country where most GPs are shown between 10pm-5am. Even when the time zone is suitable, the local rights holder chooses to delay its coverage and show local sports rather than F1.

As for payment for licences, this is better than watching ads (usually some homeshopping rubbish!) every 5 minutes, missing most of the decent action during each break and not even getting replays! Notwithstanding JA's involvement, the treatment of the F1 fans has been shameful.


I've watched this sport for around 10 years, but I will no longer be watching it any more.

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