F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has it is not his fault only half of the races will be screened live on free-to-air TV in the UK from next year - and that it was the BBC that negotiated the new arrangement with Sky.

Under the new deal, which runs from 2012-2018, only Sky Sports will screen every race live in the UK [for more details, see separate story - click here], and while Channel 4 also reportedly made a 'big-money approach', Ecclestone added with the BBC's original contract not due to expire until the end of 2013, it effectively scuppered any moves to go with Channel 4 or even return to ITV.

"They [the BBC] had a contract in force already, from 2012 all the way through to 2014. They got to grips with Sky themselves," Ecclestone explained in an interview with British tabloid newspaper The Mirror.

"I spoke with ITV and came up with the same problem as Channel 4 had. We had a contract with the BBC which didn't run out until 2014.

"We couldn't very well do a deal with other people for them to start doing something next year, because we had that contract.

"Other broadcasters wouldn't want to wait until 2014 to decide what they wanted to pay."

Asked by the 'red top' if the BBC 'held all the cards' over the new deal, Ecclestone added: "Yes, absolutely. If they [Channel 4] had said they wanted to sign a contract today to start broadcasting for ?45m a year, then we would have probably done it.

"But that's the problem. We couldn't deal with them, even if they had wanted to."

Despite the overwhelmingly negative reaction to the BBC/Sky Sports news though - over 96 percent have slammed the decision in our poll alone [see separate story - click here] - Ecclestone reiterated that he still thinks it will be good for F1 and the fans.

"I think the two of them will eventually do a good job. Sky aren't going to get the live viewing figures that we had with the BBC, but I think with the combination of the two across all the F1 that is broadcast there will be a lot more viewers," he continued.

"In the short-term, I think that collectively taking in the amount of broadcasting that's going to be scheduled between the two of them next year, there will be more eyeballs watching than we have now.

"That's good for us, good for the teams and good for the fans," Ecclestone summed-up.


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