31 July 2011
Walker: BBC blow 'a tragedy'
"I have concerns that, if the television audience goes down, F1 itself is going to suffer," Walker, who has commentated for both BBC and ITV in his time, continued, "There is also the question of how the teams and the sponsors will react because teams always want, and Bernie Ecclestone has always instead on getting, the maximum audience in order motivate sponsors to get as much money in.
"It is typical Bernie. When the BBC lost [the coverage] to ITV in 1995/96, he 'phoned the head of sport, Jonathan Martin, and said 'I am afraid to tell you that you have lost the contract and we are making the announcement in half-an-hour'. When Jonathan picked himself up of the floor and said 'gosh Bernie, you might have given us a chance', Bernie replied 'unless you have been cheating me all these years, you can't pay what they can and there was no point in talking to you'.
"I would imagine that is what happened now. Somebody said once 'follow the money', and that is what it is all about. Bernie has got to maximise income for CVC, who own the commercial rights, and the BBC have got to make savings. Obviously that necessitated, from Bernie's point of view, making a change and Sky were prepared to take it over and pay for it."
However, having been through a similar experience, and come out smiling after being picked up by ITV, Walker is optimistic that, not only will Sky provide a continuation of the current level of coverage, but may also employ those that have helped provide it - even if he cautiously ruled himself out of the mix.
"Media is changing a hell of a lot, [and] maybe something like this was inevitable," he noted, "I have no doubt at that Sky will do a very good job. I don't watch cricket or football on Sky, but my belief is they do a very good job - and, now that they have spent a hell of a lot of money to get F1, they will want to get the maximum audience for it. I am sure they will do an excellent production job.
"If Sky came calling, well you never say never, but I've had my time and done jolly well. It is early days to take about anything yet, but I would certainly be expecting Sky to go after the people who are doing it so well now. It is also inevitable that the BBC team is going to be broken up because I am quite sure that people like Martin Brundle, David Coulthard and others will be in touch with Sky, or Sky will be in touch with them."
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