Editorial: Watching from a distance

If the world was perfect, every F1 race would naturally boil down to a no-holds barred chase to the chequer. In the real world, it hardly happens at all, and even when it does, the powers-that-be make you watch adverts instead.

Apologies international fans of F1Fanatic – this gripe is purely for the British viewers, and those who pick up the ITV feed in other countries. For while those of you in other nations with better sports broadcasters watched the fraught stand-off between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso in the comfort of your own living rooms, ITV viewers got to watch adverts for insurance instead.

The introduction of advertising breaks into F1 coverage in Britain was deeply controversial when ITV took over the broacast rights in 1997, and has always rankled bitterly with the sport’s fan base in Britain. No other major sport has its live action uninterrupted by advertisements, and it illustrates ITV’s dismal commitment to Formula One that they have never even considered some of the more imaginative solutions to the problem employed by other broadcasters. Such as showing the race as a small side picture during advert breaks, or offering an advertisment-free service on pay-per-view subscription on a digital channel.

Immediately after the race ITV issued a rushed apology to British viewers. Not on their official website, of course, but it found it’s way into the hands of an Autosport journalist. ?????ǣWe are contractually committed to a number of ad breaks,?????? they pointed out, ?????ǣand when it started to get exciting we held off, expecting the battle to be settled at any point. But when nothing happened, we just had to take the break, as we’re contractually forced to do so.??????

Well, frankly, that isn’t good enough. No-one forces them to put the breaks in at specific times, and there were plenty of quieter spots earlier in the race when the could have got the breaks over and done with. ITV always show the breaks at the same time, we always get two together right at the end, and they even ran one when it was obvious that Schumacher was about to make his race-deciding pit stop. No thought was put into timing them properly whatsoever.

This latest outrage is another step in the rapidly decreasing quality of ITV’s coverage. The studio for European races setting is long gone, as is top pundit Tony Jardine. Now Jim Rosenthal and Mark Blundell hang around in various parts of the track they are visiting and contribute nothing worthwhile by way of analysis. In Australia we were treated to a spot feature about a cricketer (see issue two) – any relevance to F1 being purely coincidental.

Afternoon races are constantly interrupted with on-screen reminders that popular soap opera Coronation St will be running soon – they even get commentator James Allen to plug it!

From a fair start in 1997 ITV have lost almost all the good elements of their F1 coverage to the point that, aside from the excellent Martin Brundle and Louise Goodman, there is nothing whatsoever to commend about it. This latest controversy is further proof that their commitment to F1 is wafer-thin, and their understanding of how to present it to its dedicated audience is non-existent.

They should either sort it out, or give it up to someone who knows what they’re doing.

If you want to complain to ITV about the quality of their Formula One Coverage:

Write to:

Duty Office
Gas Street
Birmingham
B1 2JT

Or e-mail:
dutyoffice@itv.com

Or telephone or send a facsimile:

Telephone: 0870 600 6766
Facsimile: 0121 634 4898
(Monday to Friday: 08:00 – 23:00; Saturdays and Sundays: 10:00 – 22:00)

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2 comments on Editorial: Watching from a distance

  1. Nathan Jones said on 6th January 2007, 13:56

    thing is, surely the sponser would realise that foregoing thier little ads is a logical thing considering the state of the race!
    imagine how we’d all feel if schumi had have got past while the ads were on with 2 laps to go?

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th January 2007, 18:53

    Or, indeed, if Schumacher retired while the ads were going on, as happened in Japan last year…

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