29 July 2011
Statement from BBC Head of F1
In response to the debate generated by today's BBC/Sky Sports announcement, the Beeb's Head of F1, Ben Gallop, has sought to cast some light upon the rationale behind the new joint arrangement
In his online BBC blog, the corporation's Head of F1, Ben Gallop, has sought to shed some light upon the reasoning behind a decision that has generated such controversy inside the paddock and amongst the sport's fans and wholly deflected attention away from today's on-track action at the Hungaroring.
This is what he had to say:
'We announced today that from next season, the BBC will be sharing coverage of F1 with Sky Sports. There has been considerable reaction to the news, so I feel it's important to explain some of the background behind what has happened.
'The headline is that under a seven-year deal starting next season, we will be showing ten of the races on the F1 calendar, plus the corresponding qualifying and practice sessions, live on BBC TV. We will broadcast extended highlights for the rest of the grands prix just a few hours after the chequered flag has been waved. Sky will have live action from all races, qualifying and practice sessions.
'There has been a great deal of unsettling speculation recently about F1 rights. Amid all the rumour and counter-rumour, our production and on-air team have shown huge professionalism, dedication and expertise to keep delivering the high-quality output that has become the trademark of our coverage.
'The speculation is now over. This new arrangement extends the BBC's commitment to F1 by a further five years – our existing contract, which gave us exclusive rights in the UK, was due to expire in 2013 – but of course it does mean our coverage will not be as comprehensive as it has been in recent years.
'So why are we sharing the coverage with Sky when up to now it had just been us? Ultimately, of course, decisions about which media organisations get the chance to broadcast F1 are taken by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM), but from the BBC's perspective, the new set-up provided us with an opportunity to continue our association with this gripping sport, which has captured the imagination of our audiences since it returned to BBC screens in 2009, with viewing figures at a ten-year high this season.
'While our coverage from 2012 may not be as extensive as it has been up to now, the bare facts are that the BBC needs to save money. Given the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves, we believe this new deal offers the best outcome for licence fee-payers.
'In a sense, this partnership with Sky is another example of how the landscape of sports broadcasting has been transformed in recent years. There was a time when the BBC and other public service broadcasters could expect to televise all the big sports themselves. Now, though, we have a 'mixed economy', with some events on satellite while others are on terrestrial.
'Although this may be the first time the BBC has shared F1 with another broadcaster, there is a long-standing pattern of partnerships between free-to-air and pay TV to cover major sports. The Champions League can be watched on both Sky and ITV; US Masters golf is now shared between ourselves and Sky (with audiences for that event up this year); and then, of course, there is the Premier League, with live games on Sky and ESPN, while our ever-popular highlights programme 'Match of the Day' keeps football fans entertained on a Saturday night.
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