Friday, 29 July 2011

Formula 1 - Coverage To Get Cancer Next Year

The best F1 broadcast team I've watched. Plus Jonathan Legard.
I feel outraged and disgusted when I inform you that the BBC's Formula 1 coverage will be cut in half next year because of BskyB.

As you may have read, an 'agreement' has been reached so that in 2012, Sky Sports will be the only channel network to broadcast the entire season of Formula 1, and BBC will only be able to show half the races live [Source: F1Fanatic]. The key problem with that is that BBC is a "free-to-air" channel, in that the channels are free to anyone who pays for their TV license in the UK. Or if you prefer to think of it this way, it is required by law that you are able to watch TopGear and Formula 1. The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) state in their contracts that F1 must remain on free-to-air television, but next year it won't be, not a full season at least. If you want to see every race live - something that's effectively free this year - you will have to buy a subscription to Sky TV. Want HD, which again is free with the BBC? That'll be £610 a year. That's outrageous! Especially as 2013 will probably see a full-scale takeover.

Think of it like this
It doesn't just stop there, either. The BBC coverage is the best F1 coverage. That's a fact of life. Informative and entertaining presenters and commentators, professional interviewers, viewer participation on the red button with the F1 Forum (which is normally worth a watch if you've got an hour after the race). I remember watching F1 on ITV a few years ago, and Mark Blundell was a hopeless pundit, James Allen was an annoying commentator and the damn races kept going to adverts every 10-15 minutes or so. In 2009, after 10 minutes of the first pre-race programme, it was so noticeable how much better it all was, and particularly how much more genuinely informative it was, and is. Unfortunately I lost a bet with myself that David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan would have a fight while arguing over a controversial overtake or something, but other than that there were no disappointments. The people of F1 - team members and such - seem to have respect for them when they're on camera too.

I know what Sky are like, they won't keep most of these people on. Sure, they'll probably get Ted Kravitz quite easily - he's tied more to the sport than a particular channel - and perhaps Lee McKenzie, but they won't get top presenter Jake Humphrey to follow them over to the dark side, nor EJ or DC, nor Martin Brundle I suspect. The rest of the roles will be filled by people that look pretty on TV rather than people who actually know what they're bloody talking about. Have you ever seen Sky Sports News? Exactly. All plastic women and the odd flatulent Scottish sexist here and there. I don't want adverts back on my F1 screen either. I don't want to pay money for SkyPlayer to watch the currently-free highlights online that aid my race reports on here. I flat-out don't want Sky F1 coverage, even if I can get it. It'll be more like the ITV coverage, which was significantly worse, and will likely be presented by people that look and sound like rich bastards rather than petrol-blooded F1 enthusiasts.

Hopefully this will just be some horrible one-off, as FOTA chief and McLaren's Technical Director Martin Whitmarsh said a few months ago "All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air television ... Our current contracts require that F1 remain on free-to-air and the teams, through FOTA, are clearly going to safeguard their business interests and the interests of the fans in this regard." Fight valiantly lads and lasses, and know that you have the British public on your side, as well as people in other countries that receive the BBC commentary on the radio. This is not a good idea, it is not in the best interest of the sport, it's not what the viewing public want, and Sky, you're NOT welcome into the world of Formula 1. Leave it.

UPDATE [30/7/11] - I've written a little more here. It's not quite as rant-y as this is.

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