The BBC have announced that they will be exiting Formula 1 from television with Channel 4 taking over from 2016. For those following the blog in the past few weeks, the news that BBC TV will no longer be broadcasting Formula 1 should not be seen as a surprise. The F1 Broadcasting Blog understands that BBC staff were officially informed at 10:00 on Monday morning (21st December), one hour before the announcement at 11:00.
On the radio side, BBC Radio 5 Live have extended their deal until 2021. BBC’s exit from Formula 1 means that, for the first time in many decades, they do not currently hold the television rights to either two wheel or four wheel international motor racing (of course, they do have rights to motorcycle racing in Northern Ireland).
In a blog post on the BBC website, BBC’s Director of Sport Barbara Slater said “And the BBC is announcing today that a significant chunk of BBC Sport’s remaining savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1. Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly. As part of the exit arrangements we are extending our radio rights deal to 2021 and will continue to cover the sport via our sports news service and the BBC Sport website. The package of TV rights we have foregone will transfer to another free-to-air broadcaster.”
Slater also thanked everyone working with BBC F1 in her blog post: “I’d like to extend my appreciation to our production team who for seven seasons consistently produced coverage to the very highest level which has been loved by the sport’s fans. It has won numerous awards, including a BAFTA. The quality of production from those behind and in front of the camera has been without equal. These are very challenging times for the BBC and sport is not immune to those financial pressures.”
The BBC exiting Formula 1 is not a surprise, based on the headlines of the past few weeks. What I still feel is a surprise is the quickness of it. We never heard one inkling of any exit from broadcasting Formula 1 on television two months ago, so this has happened very fast. Clearly there were attempts from Formula One Management to prevent BBC exiting the contract, but as I mentioned just last Friday, if a broadcaster no longer has their heart in the game, why bother letting them continue.
I am extremely disappointed, again, by the way this has been handled by BBC Sport. In a perfect world, the BBC F1 team would have been informed officially about this before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Were the cuts so major that the BBC were unable to broadcast the 2016 season on television, as a swansong, in any way shape or form? I feel sad for the team that they were unable to put out a package during the Abu Dhabi weekend to highlight their contributions during the past seven years. Whether that was their fault, or FOM’s fault for trying to keep BBC, we do not know, but I feel for the team that they did not get their closure.
However, let us put this into context. I think Marcus Simmons, AUTOSPORT’s Deputy Director, sums it up. In the grand scheme of things, there are a lot of priorities at the BBC that are bigger than Formula 1, such as current affairs and news. In the BBC Sport pot of funding, it is easy to see how the BBC consider the Olympics, Match of the Day and Wimbledon bigger priorities than Formula 1. I doubt the high-ups BBC will have been best pleased with the off-track antics both in 2014 and 2015, Formula 1 needs to sell itself better.
The good news is that BBC Radio 5 Live is continuing their coverage, which is incredibly important, and more so than some perhaps give credit for. Radio is still a huge medium, and the coverage on radio will still reach millions of listeners that TV may not reach. There will probably be some changes to BBC’s Formula 1 radio coverage, depending on who or who not Channel 4 wish to poach, but the structure of it should be similar to now. Expect to see @BBCF1 on Twitter to stay, but the website will change significantly. Sadly, the online archive that has built up across the past seven years, will disappear, some of the material has already disappeared.
Jake Humphrey (former presenter) – “Raising a glass to everyone involved in #F1 on the BBC. Was a pleasure to play my own small part #3Amigos #Farewell”
Murray Walker (former commentator – speaking to BBC News) – “I’m enormously sad that the BBC is losing Formula 1, because ever since 1978 when it first started doing it on television, it has done an absolutely superlative job. It has raised the production standards, it has got a fabulous team of people working on it and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Whenever there’s a problem, the BBC is in danger of losing Formula 1, other channels are in there to snap it up.”
Eddie Jordan (analyst – speaking to the Mirror) – “Obviously it was a huge shock even though it had been talked about. It is utterly devastating. The week of Christmas is not the time to hear this, compounded by the fact that it’s not long since a lot of the team had left London and relocated in Salford at the whim of the BBC. People have moved families to new houses and children to new schools and were just about getting settled in Salford and then they get this bomb-shell. The people I have spoken to find it really gut-wrenching. They feel senior management have not really batted on their behalf. I really feel for them. Having said that the BBC has given me an amazing seven years and I’ve got the TV bug. While I’m in the twilight of my career I wouldn’t rule out anything for the future if it gives me a buzz. I’ve always spoken as I see things when I worked for the BBC so it’s only fair I do the same when I’m talking about the BBC.”
Allan McNish (analyst and radio commentator) – “The news is out, BBC F1 will stop it’s F1 coverage, sadly not a surprise in the circumstances. Good luck Channel 4.”
Jennie Gow (radio pit lane reporter) – “Just to say I’ve loved working with all of the BBC F1 team – learnt a lot and had some amazing times. Some very special/talented people!”
Lee McKenzie (pit lane reporter) – “Good luck to Channel 4 with their F1 coverage. Loved being part of BBC F1 team. Some great times, people and wonderful programmes.”
Michael Cunliffe (website video editor) – “Ciao F1, it’s been a blast these past 7 years #Gutted”
Tim Boyd (VT producer) – “Well that was fun whilst it lasted…”
To all of those that have played a part in BBC’s TV coverage of Formula 1 from 2009 to 2015, we say: thank you.