Why the UK government must protect live F1 broadcasts on free-to-air television

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

It's essential for F1's continued popularity that it remains on free TV
It's essential for F1's continued popularity that it remains on free TV

F1’s return to the BBC in 2009 was a success story to rival that of Brawn GP. Formula 1 coverage in Britain has at long last emerged from the dark days of ad-ridden and suffocatingly populist ITV.

What a shame, then, that the British government is about to pass up on its first opportunity in a decade to guarantee the continued coverage of F1 on free-to-air television in a country which excels at the sport.

Why F1 should be a protected sporting event

Inevitably there is much discussion to be had about which sport events deserve protected status. The EU criteria is as follows:

Each Member State may take measures in accordance with Community law to ensure that broadcasters under its jurisdiction do not broadcast on an exclusive basis events which are regarded by that Member State as being of national importance for society in such a way as to deprive a sustantial proportion of the public in that Member State of the possibility of following such events by live coverage or deferred coverage on free television.
EU Audio Visual Media Services Directive

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport interprets this as follows:

  • It is a pre-eminent national or international event in the sport
  • It involves the national team or national representatives in the sport concerned
  • It is likely to command a large television audience
  • It has a history of being broadcast live of free-to-air services

“Review of Free-to-Air Listed Events” by the Independent Advisory Board to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

F1 satisfies all of these criteria: to begin with, it is the most eminent event in motor racing and has been broadcast free-to air for the last three decades.

Britain not only has two national representative drivers – Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton – but they are also the two most recent drivers’ champions. The new constructors’ champions, Brawn, are also British, and the majority of F1 teams are based in Britain.

And F1 is likely to command an audience at least as large as some of the other events which have been granted protected status, such as the Ashes cricket tournament. According to the report:

The average live TV audience per session of play during the 2005 Ashes series on Channel 4 was 2.4m.

This year at least ten of the 17 F1 races had audiences in excess of 4m, and the Brazilian Grand Prix was watched by 6.6m (source: BARB).

But the report makes scant mention of any form of motor racing. The only noteworthy reference to F1 is as follows:

The BBC defends the absence of a clear commitment to listed events by saying “it must assess the value of particular sports to licence fee payers taking into account the public service value to the BBC’s portfolio.” In practical terms, this has meant in recent times that the BBC has declined to bid for cricket Test Matches (Group B Listed) but paid a substantial sum of money for the rights to Formula 1 Motor Racing (not currently listed).

Far from being criticised for snubbing a listed event in favour of a non-listed one, the BBC should be applauded for having a better understanding of which sports the British public want to watch than the IAB does.

This is probably because the board’s consultation with the public was meagre at best. They polled just 148 people (a minimum sample size of 1,000 is usually acceptable for such surveys). For what it’s worth, five wanted all F1 races protected, four asked for just the British Grand Prix, and one wanted all motor racing protected. But such a tiny sample can hardly be considered representative.

Will F1 stay free-to-air?

F1 may be on free-to-air television in Britain at the moment but we cannot take for granted that will always be the case. Bernie Ecclestone has moved F1 coverage in other countries to higher-paying pay TV companies. Pay TV is less widespread in Britain than in several other European countries – uptake is around 50% – so F1’s audience would be slashed if it moved, and F1 fans would have to pay to watch.

Car manufacturers had urged F1 to remain on free-to-air television in the interest of reaching the widest possible audience. But with Honda, BMW, Toyota and possibly Renault all leaving that may change. Ecclestone would surely love a more lucrative TV deal with Sky to help pay the CVC bill. Formula 1 Administration were among the sporting bodies who made a submission for the report but the content of it is not recorded.

Here in Britain we are lucky to have some of the best live F1 coverage in the world – perhaps the best. Britain plays a uniquely important role in Formula 1 and motor racing in general. Other countries have successful teams (Italy) or successful drivers (Brazil) but only Britain has had both in recent years.

The government’s refusal to put Formula 1 on the list of protected sporting events may jeopardise the continued popularity of a sport which Britain excels at, and an industry which employs thousands and generates millions of pounds.

Outside Britain

Among European countries Austria, Belgium, Finland, Frace, Germany, Ireland and Italy have protected sporting events. Outside the EU Australia’s equivalent – called the “anti-siphoning list” – has the largest roster of protected events with more than 25.

Do you live in any of these regions – and if so do you know if F1 or any motor racing events have protected status? Do you think F1 should have protected status in Britain or anywhere else? Have your say in the comments.

NB. The report proposed the list should contain the following events: the Olympics, World Cup and European football championship (including home nation qualifiers), Grand National (horse racing), FA Cup Final, Scottish FA Cup Final (Scotland only), Wimbledon (tennis), The Open (golf), The Ashes (cricket), Rugby Union World Cup and Welsh Six Nations Rugby matches (Wales only). The Winter Oympic Games, the Derby and the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final were all removed from the protected list.

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93 comments on “Why the UK government must protect live F1 broadcasts on free-to-air television”

  1. Yeah, Brits are lucky to get BBC coverage for free, its brilliant!

    We in Asia have to pay money to watch a rubbish coverage! I dont think we have such a list of protected sports here in Malaysia, even if we did, it wouldn’t matter as nobody watches local sports. Having said that, the few local sports that we’re actually good at (i.e. badminton/squash) are all broadcast through pay satellite TV, so I guessing we dont have this protected list.

    Most Asians watch European/American sports anyway (F1, BPL, ATP, NBA, NFL etc.) apart from India of course, the rest of the world watches their league (IPL).

    1. Ugghhhhh… ESPN Star…

      Agree with you there, even for your southern neighbours (such as myself), sporting events are primarily pay-per-view, unless it’s important enough that free-for-air (Mediocre-corp) shows it, such as the Olympics (selected events only).

      Our local main cable TV provider lost the BPL rights recently to it’s competitor, and there was such a huge outcry that the matter was raised in Parliament…

      1. I’ve had the misfortune of watching star sports feed on JTV numerous times.

        Steve Slater is an absolute novice & has absolutely no knowledge of the sport.

        A F1 Fanatic would do a better job imho.

        1. yeah totally agree
          half the times confuses himself with driver names
          and makes strategy predictions on god knows what logic

        2. A F1 Fanatic would do a better job imho.

          Agree completely.

          Takers?

          1. I’ll do it!!! If I would be good is another question…

    2. As an American F1 fan, I am deeply envious that so many of you can watch F1 for free. I have to pay 40-something dollars per month to get a cable package with the Speed channel, and I basically pay it just to have live F1 coverage. That being said, Speed’s F1 coverage and commentary are surprisingly good.

      1. But the worst thing is when Speed shows the F1 recap and the Inside Grand Prix shows at weird times – like 1am on the west coast! The other downside is that F1 goes to Fox for 4 races in the middle of hte summer – at noon – HOURS after the race is over. If Speed delivered even 10% of their coverage to F1 rather than NASCAR it would be ok – but it’s tiring to constantly have F1 bumped for red-neck racing!

  2. As a British F1 fan who is unlikely to ever subscribe to Sky, I would like coverage to remain on free-to-air TV and on the BBC, but if you look at the list of sports they have included and the ones they have left out I think the best we could hope for would be the that the British Grand Prix was included and the rest of the races put on the list of sports where highlights have to be shown on free-to-air TV.

    As well as the teams and their sponsors wanting F1 to remain on free-to-air TV for more exposure, I wasn’t sure if in the past Ecclestone had said the same thing. However considering we have lost the US and other Grand Prix, when the manufacturers wanted to keep them, and with Ecclestone needing to get as much money for CVC as possible, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future F1 did move to pay TV.

  3. The BBC have invested so much that I think they have the commitment in place to deal with this.
    I have said.many times that I hate government involvement and they certainly should never have control over the media so the very fact they have these powers is completely wrong. Mandelson has got a cheek saying we must have the Brit GP and then ignoring this issue. It’s all show no action. Even with you don’t like the drivers or the tracks they GP show that Britain has a love of motorsport and can contribute to it. We have a few teams based here too.
    I don’t think we will lose free to view F1. But right now if we did it would be a big mistake. It would be a populist move by looking at the success of other sports and would show the government truly ignorant of Britain’s real sporting heritage.
    Finally to all fanatics that pay I’m sorry you have to, the UK is very lucky.

    1. *free to air :p.sorry got lost in my rant and was fiddling with my freeview :p

      1. Accidental Mick
        15th November 2009, 15:16

        Sorry Steph, nitpicking again (my favourite occupation :-) )
        In Britain we DO have to pay – we pay by means of the license fee.

        Forgive my ignorance but do othrt nation have to pay to watch television regardless of what they are watching?

        1. There are free channels here in the USA, but of course its only a few channels.

  4. Mussolini's Pet Cat
    14th November 2009, 9:28

    One of the greatest aspects of the BBC’s coverage has been the ‘red button’ service. Not only have i enjoyed the practice sessions but also the showing of classic GP’s and Murray Walkers segments have been superb. It’s a shame then that the ‘red button’ service looks like it’s going to be dropped in the near future.

    1. It’s a shame then that the ‘red button’ service looks like it’s going to be dropped in the near future

      Really? I’ve really enjoyed the practice sessions and would hate to lose them again. Where did you hear this?

      1. Before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the BBC made some changes to it’s red button service. To make space for HD channels on Freeview in the future, they had to switch off two of the three interactive streams on Freeview, the News Multiscreen and I think it was channel 302, these are still available on Sky and Vigin Media and 301 is still available on Freeview.

        So after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix the F1 Forum was not available on Freeview as the red button channel was being used for the New York Marathon.

        I haven’t read that the BBC will be stopping broadcasting practice and the forum on Freeview next season but if there is another major event on it might get priority on Freeview and you would only get the extra F1 coverage either if you have Sky or Virgin or from the BBC website.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2009/10/change_to_freeview.html

        1. Ah, OK, thanks for the info. I was watching on Virgin cable so didn’t notice that the forum wasn’t available to all.

          I guess practice sessions are unlikely to clash with other major events, and would still be on the beeb’s website. I was just a bit concerned that they were cutting coverage for budgetary, not bandwidth reasons.

  5. I’m not sure if Formula 1 has some kind of protected status here in Germany, but free-TV broadcaster RTL had no problem to stop broadcasting the qualifying session for the brazilian GP in favour of their regular schedule. However, it is unlikely that the broadcasting rights will change any time soon, RTL (propably Germany’s equivalent to ITV) has them since the late 80s. During the 90s, Premiere (now SKY TV), a pay-TV station, is also broadcasting F1, but I have never seen one of “their” races, I only know that they are ad-free.

    One word to the BBC coverage: Everyone who is complaining about their coverage should watch one race on RTL, just to see how bad it can be, even with an experienced broadcaster. I was able to watch the Abu Dhabi GP and several pre-race shows on the BBC and in comparison to RTL it was so much better. The pre-race shows on RTL have degenerated to one-hour Vettel worshipping without any meaningful information, even before qualifying. Regardless of the actual championship standings, they were promoting a “duel” for the championship between Button and Vettel from the chinese GP onwards, Webber and Barrichello were barely mentioned, let alone their championship chances.
    And if you think Jonathan Legard is bad, wait until you hear Heiko Waßer, he is getting worse year by year. By now, he basically fails to show any excitement at the start of the race and at the end of the Italian GP he showed his deep understanding for the sport and the drivers by expecting Barrichello to “let Button through for the championship” any minute.
    The only half-decent people in their team are co-commentator Christian Danner (who is also messing up some times) and pundit Niki Lauda. But the most annoying person is their pit-lane reporter, Kai Ebel:
    http://www1.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/F1+Grand+Prix+of+Malaysia+RTII2TRL6n3l.jpg

    So, please appreciate how lucky you are….

    1. yeh, the local commentators in australia aren’t too bad but like i say below, they don’t really commentate the race, just breif summaries before and after ads.

      i was so angry at the end of the brazilian gp last year. after possibly the most exciting championship conclusion we will ever see, the coverage was pulled before we got to see any of the post race press conference!!! back then we didn’t have the One HD channel so it was just on the standard def one. (the thing is One HD is a sports exclusive channel so they will allow broadcasts to run over time (like brazil and japan qualifying this year)).

      overall, i have to say i’m pretty happy with the broadcast we get here, but some races are just inconvenient. Eg: brazil- 3am, as with US (RIP) and Canada (soon to be resurrected). the european rounds usually start at around 10pm which is quite ok. abu dhabi started at midnight.

    2. So, please appreciate how lucky you are….

      I absolutely do – F1 coverage in Britain has been fantastic this year, the best it’s ever been. It would be terrible if it went off free TV.

      1. I agree, only thing missing from a perfect coverage was HD. Will we get it for 2010?

  6. in Australia, we get all the GPs broad cast live free to air on “One HD” which just takes the bbc coverage and sticks ads in it. although we do get a locally made preview show for the hour before the race start and then the hosts have a chat to peter windsor and then they hand over to the bbc until just before and just after ad breaks. for those who do not have a high def set top box/ high def tuner of any other sought (or are like my parents and live in the ignorant world of standard definition), there is a replay, usuall super late at night/early in the morning without the preview show on ‘Channel 10″. Hopefully at some stage the ABC will pick it up to rid the ads but that’ll never happen.

    oh yeh, and we also get qualifying on One HD (not always live though). Standard def viewers miss out. and everyone thinks i’m mad when i say i’m watching practice tonight cause they have no idea what tis cause it isn’t broadcast at all. so i rely on you guys with the blog and internet feeds/ live timing. it makes me mildly depressed that i can’t do that for 4 more months. but then i’ll be in melbourne for round 2! yay. turn 1 grandstand…

    i think the f1 must be protected here for free to air. i’ve not heard any rumours that it will be shafted to fox or anything. i know A1GP was originally broadcast free to air but it never really took off so now it’s only available on a pay service from foxtel.

    1. A1GP was only ever shown on FTA as a 60min highlights package weeks after the actual races happened.

      F1 isn’t on Channel 10/ONE’s high priorities list though. You just need to look at the shabby way it was treated around the Brazilian GP because of the 20/20 Champions League thing in India. They originally wanted to show the race on delay by 6hrs because they just don’t care about it … mind you, we all know how much better their coverage would be if Webber was in the title hunt.

      I hate sport on FTA in Australia. Listening to Greg Rust bleet on about “Australia’s Mark Webber” and “Australia’s Casey Stoner” – ugh.

      1. Is it just me or is OneHD throwing in far too many commercials these days? At Silverstone it was absurd! Webber was putting in very fast lap times and catching on the pack, I could see it on my timing but we were watching a Video Hits preview or some garbage.

  7. Just a small point Keith, but for the usually used statistical significance of 5%, the maximum sample size needed is only 400 (not the 1,000 that you mention). Of course, this depends on the size of the population from which one is sampling – the article at http://people.usd.edu/~mbaron/edad810/Krejcie.pdf explains it well.

    1. Interesting – I used to work in PR and if we were doing anthing survey-related our rule of thumb was a minimum sample size of 1,000. Which is still small when we’re a population of, what, 60 million?

  8. I hope F1 isn’t taken off free-to-air television. It would be an utter disgrace and a repeat of the current Silverstone situation, in which the product in questioned is threatened by the interests of greed and betrayed by a government with its priorities both wrong and hypocritical (just as the Olympics is getting huge amounts more than Silverstone is asking for, in this situation the government would be protecting the Ashes and not F1, even though more people watch the latter). Then again, this government has done so much to let our manufacturing and car industries down over the past decade that I wonder if they actually do know what damage they’re doing, and doing deliberately.

    I’m moving to Canada and if all goes well with that I won’t be enjoying the standard and quality of coverage the BBC provides, but I’d sure hate to think everyone else was being deprived of it too. We have Sky now but just two packages – even a basic sports package is in my opinion way too much. If it was £5 for a complete motor sports package then maybe I’d pay, but we just got rid of (as Keith says) the ad-ridden populism of ITV, I’d hate to see that return any time soon.

  9. keep f1 free to air.about 4 years ago in ireland,f1 changed from the national broadcaster rte to private sattilite company setanta.and look where setanta is now.
    infact the only channel i can watch f1 on is bbc.even then i have a problem.since my house is in front of a hill,sometimes the telly goes scrambled.so i miss the gp.

  10. I think that first paragraph on ITV was a bit harsh. Adverts were always going to be an unavoidable problem — but in return they improved the F1 coverage enormously from the old BBC days: recruiting Martin Brundle to commentate, introducing the grid walks, hour-long build up shows…

    1. What I never understand about the adverts is football never gets disrupted yet for F1 they were every 10-15minutes. Sure football has half time but F1 could have been left in peace from them for much longer.

      1. With an F1 race ITV faced going about one and a half hours without an ad break whereas for Football the time is half that at 45 minutes, and then they manage to squeeze in as many ad breaks as possible when the game isn’t being played, they can usually get at least three ad breaks in during the 15 minute half time.

        During the ad breaks I would have liked to have seen the race displayed in a small window on screen while the ads played, this would keep have kept me watching as I usually change channels during ad breaks. I believe this happens in some countries, but I don’t know if ITV would have been allowed to do this.

        1. Accidental Mick
          15th November 2009, 15:23

          I watched one of the races in a bar in Valencia this year and was impressed that adverts were shown on a split screen with the race still being shown in the other half.

    2. Yep …for a commercial TV company where populism and big bucks call the shots ITV Sport made a fair fist of what the put on air for F1 fans.
      The guys running the actual coverage were clearly dedicated to doing a better job than the old ( and very poor quality ) BBC tv stuff. They tried lots of new ideas that we now take for granted.

      But of course their coverage was always going to be hamstrung by ITV’s crippling need for advertising revenue. We are, in reality, damn lucky in UK to have Auntie Beeb and the dear old licence fee.

      As some of the posts here from around the world show very clearly.

  11. I think F1 should improve the show itself, instead of begging for special protections from politicians.

    1. Depends on how you define “show”…

      For us, it’s the thrill of seeing red-blooded racers running hellbent for leather against each other on the track, where driver and team ability determine the outcome.

      For Bernie, the “show” is about moving the F1 circus to organised processions in far-off and exotic locations with far more money than taste, vulgar displays of gold-plated, diamond studded wealth and lurid scandals which you’ll read about in the supermarket tabloids…

  12. I’ve just set up a petition to number 10 for this. It should go live within five working days, and if we can get 500 signatures, we can get an actual response: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ProtectedF1

  13. I live in Italy and I can tell you something about our situation:

    F1 races have a really big audience (maybe less this year, but in the Schumacher-Ferrari era the audience was spectacular) and they are shown on FTA national TV (RAI 1). The coverage only includes qualifying, the race and a gp2 race on sunday morning. The worst thing is the commentary… too much Ferrari-centric and very confused.

    In 2008 and 2009 there was also a pay-tv coverage on sky (very complete coverage: all free practice, marc genè as commentator) but next year they’re dropping it.

    Being a F1 fan and a geek I installed for myself a motorized dish antenna and I always follow BBC coverage: no ads, full coverage and great gridwalks with Brundle.

  14. If you look at the list of sports, they are all last for 1 or 2 weeks at most, apart from the cricket.

    As much as I would detest a move to Sky and wish F1 was on a protected list, trying to be completely unbiased, F1 is not a national sport or event… like cricket and the grand ntational respectively for example.

    We just have to sit and hope the BBC can hang onto F1. If only Bernie would just go away. If only.

  15. If Britain is going to protect F1’s free-to-air coverage then it would only make sense for the British Grand Prix to be covered.

    In most cases it is only the event that is significant in Britain that is covered… for instance it is not all the golf majors, only The Open. It is not all cricket, it is just the Ashes.

  16. For what it’s worth, five wanted all F1 races protected, four asked for just the British Grand Prix, and one wanted all motor racing protected.

    Thats because all F1 fans are indoors furiously looking for F1 news updates, we haven’t got time to go out and answer surveys.

    1. sorry I should elaborate on my previous comment.

      Essentially they’ve gone to a part of the UK that isn’t interested in motor sport, probably north wales… you should see the hate for Rallying over there.

  17. HounslowBusGarage
    14th November 2009, 12:47

    Keith, I’m on your side, but I think your coparison here is flawed.

    And F1 is likely to command an audience at least as large as some of the other events which have been granted protected status, such as the Ashes cricket tournament. According to the report:

    The average live TV audience per session of play during the 2005 Ashes series on Channel 4 was 2.4m.

    This year at least ten of the 17 F1 races had audiences in excess of 4m, and the Brazilian Grand Prix was watched by 6.6m (source: BARB).

    The average audience per session of play in 2005 includes morning and afternoon sessions of weekday play when most of the target audience is at work or studying. To make a fair comparison, you’d need to compare all televised grand prix sessions (practice and qualifyig on Friday and Saturday) if they were broadcast in 2009. If they weren’t broadcast, then you can only compare 2009 F1 race audience figures with 2005 Ashes Cricket weekend sessions only. Regrettably, I think the figures would be very different.

    1. Weekend sessions only – brilliant idea – that’s what should be on the protected list: just the F1 races (all of them), and just the saturday and sunday cricket (all the England tests, not just every 4 years…) Put the other sessions on a BBC Sport subscription channel, that would help them compete for rights.

      Is F1 on free TV under threat in any way, or are F1 fans just crying because they didn’t get a mention on the news?

  18. If I remember correctly Bernie sent the Labour Party/Tony Blair a £1M “donation” to ensure that HIS interests were protected. I know it was “returned” but I’m sure that it made it’s way back into Blair’s wallet as a consultancy fee.

    Bernie will always want to sell to the highest bidder and our British politicians and quangos will always welcome the chance to skim some sterling into their bank accounts.

    I imagine the only complaints would come from the sponsors who would like their mobile billboards viewed by as many suckers as possible.

    Regards

    A Cynic

  19. The thing is Ecclestone knows full well F1 will die if he sells it to Sky. He may get a bit more money from Sky directly, but the actual exposure i.e. getting companies brands into the world is greatly reduced.

    Sponsors leave, end of F1.

    1. Exactly. Bernie went mental when ITV threatened to broadcast the Canadian GP on ITV4 a couple of years ago. He knows that for F1 to continue its massive exposure in Britain, it needs to be on free-to-air TV.

  20. I honestly don’t know if there is such a list of protected sporting events here in Brazil, but I think a rational model is the one adopted here:

    Races and Qualifying are transmitted by free television (Globo TV), but the other sessions and events (practices and press conferences) are broadcasted by Globo’s cable channel (Sportv), except when a brazilian driver wins, when they also broadcast the post-race press conference on their free television channel…

    I also wanna repeat that here in Vrazil we don’t have ad breaks during the race, but breif ads, with the sponsor’s logo on the upper right corner and five seconds of their audio announce, but preserving the live images… that’s quite clever and much better then the british model… sorry for the messed up english…

  21. Here in Canada we have to watch F1 on TSN (The Sports Network) and we get no pre race or post race coverage, just the race.
    I have a satelite provider by the name of Bell Express Vu.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see TSN drop F1 coverage soon though.

  22. Why isn’t there an agreement within the FIA/FOM/FOTA that F1 should be on FTA worldwide?

    1. Should be some protection but there is probably little than can be done. It’s more down to if the stations want to air it or not and what money can they get.

  23. Crid [CridComment @ gmail]
    14th November 2009, 16:03

    Listen, I’m here in the States, and I think this is just commie ****. There’s no reason the average taxpayer should be on the hook so that people who like to watch sports on TV can get their thrills. Taxes are taken from people and gunpoint… To spend that money on something as frivolous as auto racing on television is madness.

    Ethically speaking, commercial television is the way to go… Or pay TV. The people who want this stuff in their lives should pay for it. That’s the only way for us to know what it’s worth!

    (Hmmm? Me, personally? Well, I’ve watched the last three seasons through internet torrents… Why do you ask?)

    1. We pay TV license to subsidise the BBC and help the industry in Britain which can cost a bit so we should get a say where the money goes. If we don’t like it then we don’t pay the free.
      The government should have no right to interfere or ignore it as they are now choosing to do as it isn’t really a typical government issue and the rights should go to TV industry in my opinion and they can protect it.

      1. Crid [CridComment @ gmail]
        14th November 2009, 16:50

        Oh, I thought the fees were compulsory for everyone… Apologies.

        In any case, I like the BBC team. Brundle’s excellent, Legard is a little annoying, but I felt the same way about James Allen… But I was wrong!, and I miss Allen a lot.

        Let’s face it, the real magic is from the F1 feed. Just a couple of races ago, I forget where, but we cut to a car camera just as it was leaving the track to crash… I’m certain this “take” was an automatically switched by some of the technologies that Bernie’s investment created during the pay-per-view venture a few years ago.

        Especially when watching the older races on Justin.TV , we see that the quality of the television coverage has improved stupendously in recent times. Just a few years ago, we were at the mercy of whatever local staff had come to the track on race day. The old Italian races in particular looked like ‘Spaghetti Western’ movies from the 1970s… All snap zooms and jump cuts, with no narrative courtesies at all.

        I’ve really enjoyed (stealing) the BBC coverage! At this point I’d rather see the race on even a small TV screen than in person…. (Exceptions: Monaco and Spa.)

    2. The TV licence is exactly that – it’s a licence, not a tax, and it’s not compulsory.

  24. Crid [CridComment @ gmail]
    14th November 2009, 16:06

    AT gunpoint etc.

  25. In Finland you do have to pay to watch F1, because it comes live on MTV MAX, and then a edited 1 hour replay comes at around 6:00 PM for the European Races.

    Not that it is that important but to get SPEED HD the channel F1 comes on in the US you have to pay ~$60/month so that it is included in the package. Though I do have to say that SPEED commentators especially Steve Matchett and David Hobbs are some of the best, and though the BBC pre-race/post-race coverage is better, the race commentary in my opinion is better on SPEED.

    1. i agree completely. hopefully next year Speed will produce a top-notch program similar to BBC, but i doubt it.

  26. In Australia the only protected race is the Australian Grand Prix. Specifically:

    “Each race in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile Formula 1 World Championship (Grand Prix) held in Australia.”

    Same applies to the Moto GP and IndyCar series’.

    All rounds of the local V8 taxi racing are protected.

    Reference: http://www.dbcde.gov.au/television/antisiphoning_and_antihoarding/sport_on_television__review_of_the_anti-siphoning_scheme_discussion_paper/sport_on_television_-_a_review_of_the_anti-siphoning_scheme_discussion_paper2/9

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      14th November 2009, 20:51

      “taxi racing”. I like that description!

  27. I agree with the comments on ESPN Star in India… Chris Goodwin (Mclaren test driver) was good, but they ditched him for some reason. Why doesnt Bernie establish some kind of webcast (paid of course) of the races? Any one know? I would be happy to pay for a quality webcast, rather than watch a grainy hacked feed or have to hunt around for free feeds at 5AM in the morning when they are taken down by Bernie’s minions. BTW I live in the US currently and dont have a TV :)

  28. I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I live in USA, we don’t have a concept of commercial free uninterrupted coverage. I think there are 3-5 free channels here. They are all worthless unless you want the local news.

    Protect what you have because the alternative sucks.

  29. Here in Portugal it was on RTP1 (kind of a portuguese BBC) for free, but since 2007 it is on SportTV, which you have too pay for!

    It isn’t cheep! I watch F1 on Justin TV ever since…

  30. Hello all.
    Being Portuguese i can really relate to this article. Here F1 used to be in the state TV (RTP) but since a years back its on a payed sports channel (payed as in as much as 50 euros per month). And that has hurt the sport’s image here, even if we have drivers in risk of entering F1 (Alvaro Parente) we still don’t here that much about F1 on public tv.In the mid 90’s there was even programs on it..the day after Senna’s accident the portuguese parliament held a minute of silence..
    I followed F1 this year through Filmon Hdi which broadcasts BBC. Although not being British, F1 on BBC has another feeling to it.Hope it stays on BBC.

  31. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
    14th November 2009, 22:22

    I live in Ireland.
    When Eddie Irvine retired and Jordan finally sold, and with the F1 getting dearer, R.T.E. our national broadcasting station sold the rights to TV3, who are also free but only ran highlights for a year, then it went to Setanta who are pay per view,
    Instead of watching terrible highlights I had to by a €400 satilite to get itv coverage, which was miles better than R.T.E.
    But because it is now pay per view, interest in Ireland has inevitably dropped. Only the hardcore fans still watch it. Even the only F1 shop that I know of in Ireland has closed(well maybe there are a few in Dublin but i’ve never seen them).
    Thanks Bernie.

  32. Nice 1 Keith I also agree F1 needs to be protected by Government.

  33. Not so sure about GB. But its always has been on Free to air TV in Australia.

  34. Here in Florida, I watch F1 on Speed TV, which is included in basic digital packages (not PPV) on cable or satellite. It’s not free. We do get full coverage of the race, including a half-hour pre-race with Peter Windsor walking the grid, Saturday qualifying, Friday afternoon practice, a 1-hour recap show of the previous race (F1 De-brief) and a 1/2 hour F1 news magazine show that highlights this week’s host country and other featured F1 stories (Inside F1). The commentator team of Bob Varsha (Host), David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and Peter Winsdor is fantastic; their combined insight, knowledge and experience create a fantastic show.

    In the summer, Fox broadcasts 4 or 5 races instead of Speed, and this is free, over-the air in HD (Speed is SD). It’s the same team of commentators. Only the Sunday coverage is changed, and Speed still broadcasts the practice, qualifying and other shows. But Fox tape delays the broadcasts into our afternoon, and doesn’t allow the time for the pre-race grid walk, or the after race wrap up; they give the event a 2-hour slot and that’s it.

    Of course I’d rather have the extended coverage, in HD, free over-the-air, with no worries of a rain delay or safety cars making the event run longer than the fixed time allotted by an indifferent network, but that perfect combo doesn’t exist for me right now. The coverage I get by subscribing to a dedicated racing channel seems like a great value to me, and I hope Speed keeps up the great work. I can’t wait to see who they replace Peter Windsor with.

    1. I agree Mike Speed coverage is awesome… but for some reason the quali and race are blacked out here in Canada… go figure… but the rest of the shows are exceptional…

  35. you guys have it good over there in the UK for sure… I not only have to get up at 5am for races we only get the race in standard def on TSN… We used to get it on Speed as it’s on my dish but this year to my surprise come qualifying for Australia… it was blacked out!! I freaked!.. all year for some reason the racing channel blacked it out… so at least I had TSN for quali and races… all the rest was justintv and downloads…

    I was also wondering if we will get F1 in true HD next year.. they said that Abu Dhabi was in HD? This sport needs to be in High Definition…

    Cheers all… :)

  36. I’m a firm believer in the free market system. So, no, I don’t think Formula 1 should get a decree from any country’s government saying it must be broadcast on free-to-air television. That is discriminatory against pay-cable(& satellite) networks.

    Frankly, I don’t see that any sport should have it’s whole season protected, though in some cases I can see making an exception to the rule if the country’s people as well as it’s government agree that the event is seen as “being of national importance for society in such a way as to deprive a sustantial[sic] proportion of the public in that Member State of the possibility of following such events by live coverage or deferred coverage on free television”, and this only when it’s an event that’s popularly regarded as a top-notch event in the sport. The Olympics, for example. Times are hard, and not everyone can afford cable/satellite television, and everyone should have some exposure to important sporting events in their own country, as well as worldwide events.

    Yes, this is the view of a capitalist. And it’s worked well for me, lo these many years. Usually works pretty well in business, too. And make no mistake about it, F1 broadcasting is a business. Mr. Ecclestone has seen to that, these past years.

    Here in the United states, the most popular form of auto racing is NASCAR. Why? One big reason is because it’s the most accessible. F1, Rally, and most other racing series, are all on Speed or one of the other pay channels. Sponsors get less exposure for the money when the car they sponsor is in a series shown only on cable. Less viewers than free-to-air commercial television. ( Oh, and did I mention that even on Speed, which one pays EXTRA to the cable company to get, there are commercials ?!?!?!).

    NASCAR teams have no problems at all finding sponsors. Even the little teams, or brand new ones. Always a company willing to invest, as they know their logo will be seen by millions at least once a week for 4 hours. And if it’s a winning team, they know it will get seen a lot more, in interviews, and on t-shirts the fans buy.

    (And even the mighty giant NASCAR has slipped in viewership in recent years, primarily since they started broadcasting a large portion of their season on a pay cable/satellite channel.)

    Formula 1, on the other hand, is losing sponsors at the same speed at which rats desert a sinking ship. Eventually, Ecclestone will wise up, or someone at CVC will notice the bottom line is looking a bit thin, and things will improve in terms of readiness of availability of the FOM broadcasts for free-to-air markets.

    I hope.

    In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the fine quality internet torrents shared by some of the nicest people in the world, because I-like Crid-don’t have television. (Crid, are we related? LOL)

    1. Crid [CridComment @ gmail]
      15th November 2009, 8:23

      > are we related? LOL)

      My long-lost brother!
      ___________________________

      But let’s give props where due: Bernie’s producing some of the finest television the medium has ever known. Youth, technology, personality, kinetics… F1 has it all.

      Every time I walk past a tv with Nascar on it, and all those little very heterosexual men are bunched up snug next to each other in a cluster, on the same lap with no hills and only left-hand curves, I wonder what went wrong with our wonderful country. We got Talladega, they got Monaco.

    2. ABC pays a lot of money for the rights to broadcast NASCAR over the air; if ESPN or SPEED were the high bidder then America might have to pay to watch it on cable or satellite. It happened with Monday Night Football, the most popular sports show on TV, and the country dealt with it. Capitalism in action!

  37. The Bernie ‘bribe’ to the Labour party has made matters much more harder than they need to be…

  38. Here in South Africa we have to pay for satellite telly to be able to watch most major sports. Everything from Premiership Football to athletics is broadcast on satellite telly. If you don’t have it, the only sport you can watch is local football, which is rubbish.

    SuperSport provides a great service in respect of so many sports, rugby, football and golf are all top notch, but our F1 team is useless. The team consists of a radio DJ who calls himself a “F1 guru” (with a horrible bias in respect of Ferrari so you get at least 3 references to “My-call Shoe-Maaah-ker” every race, a formula VW (SA’s only wings and slicks racing category) engineer who’s sole excuse for a lack of pace from Ferrari is “the others must all be running the softer tyre and low fuel loads”, and multiple SA champion driver guy who once drove Le Mans cars and who currently drives a Mini in touring cars… special.

    They host one show on the Wednesday before the race called “Absolute F1” which is poor. It seems like they just go to autosport.com for proper news and make up the rest as they go along. They provide “commentary” for Free Practice which is so boring, inaccurate and dull that you end up falling asleep or throwing your shoe at the TV. The quali and race broadcast is introduced by them and then grudgingly handed over to Brundle and the BBC on the parade lap after having wasted your time telling you useless, inaccurate predictions, and dropping every F1 cliché in the book. They are so poor. I also think that any Fanatic on this site could do a better job!

    I don’t really care if F1 stays free to air in the UK, I just hope we keep on getting good commentary from the likes of Brundle’s, because I really would die if I was left in the hands of our fools!

  39. I agree with all others who live in Asia, we have to watch F1 with expensive pay-tv and get crap coverage & commentary at the same time.

    On a side note, I’ve just written to ESPN Star about this. Not holding my breath I’ll a reply, but hope I’m speaking out for all Asian fans who suffer from Steve Slater…

  40. Here’s my letter to ESPN Star…

    That’s it, stop insulting F1 fans and fire Steve Slater

    Dear Management of ESPNStar,

    I’m sure I am not alone, please spend a few minutes and search online to see what fans think of Steve Slater. He is annoying, possess no knowledge in mortorsport & F1, do stupid chuckles, and most of the time gets things wrong in terms of drivers and race progression. His co-commentators cannot stand him (just ask Chris Goodwin, he’s a good guy btw) And oh, he gets on viewers’ nerves by his silly repetitive one-liners.

    Please Management, I invite you to watch a few races, be it F1, GP2, MotoGP, NASCAR, LeMans… Listen to their commentary, and I dare to say, none can be worse than Steve Slater. For example, your GP2 & MotoGP coverage, their commentators are no well-known superstar, but their commentaries are top class. Now, open your eyes & ears to BBC’s F1 coverage, and you’ll be amazed how badly us Asian fans are treated in terms of coverage.

    I’ve been wanting to send this to your attention for a long long time, but what pushed me to really do this is watching your F1 Classics re-run of 1994 Australian GP. It’s totally absurd for Steve & Alex to “re-commentate”. Without doubt, their commentating qualities are poor as usual. But on top of that, they try to create excitement and make believe that they’re not sure what happened just like live tv? My god! This race happened 15 years ago! Why not just buy the right to broadcast these races, and pay a few quid more to get Murray Walker’s commentary too, and don’t insult and fool us fans in the process?

    I have one simple suggestion for Star Sports to improve your F1 coverage in one master stroke….

    BUY BBC’s RACE FEED TOGETHER WITH THEIR COMMENTARY.
    (Canadian & Australian broadcasters do this)

    You can still do a pre-race and post-race feature show if you want. But fans will be properly treated to top class commentary. It’s not only fans who benefit. I’m sure proper commentary will correctly educate and entertain “casual” fans, so they will watch more of your coverage. You have no idea how Steve Slater annoys and turns off casual and hardcore fans alike. Oh, did I mention you can cut your headcount to balance the books by doing this?

    Please, spend some time to see what fans say on forums about Steve Slater. I only watch Star Sports F1 Live coverage just because I HAVE to. Wait a few years and online streaming improves their quality to live TV standard, I will surely watch overseas feeds if you still keep the “self proclaimed Petro-Head Steve Slater”.

    I’m pushed to my limit to tolerate Steve Slater. I’m actually going to draft a proposal to Mr. Ecclestone to recommend proper coverage and how to attract new fans in Asia (his booming market), and unsurprisingly, the #1 action plan will be to REMOVE STEVE SLATER.

    ps. sorry for my strong and negative tone, but I’m just speaking out after years of tolerating an incompetent commentator in a sport I love.

    Thanks for your attention,
    Freeman Tang
    Hong Kong
    17 Nov 2009

  41. I watch F1 on Internet buy downloading from Torrents. Thanks for the British guys who upload it. imagine in the Arab world were 2 amazing events Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. To watch F1 you must download it cause the TV coverage expensive on AlJazeera and they are the only TV channel in all the Arab World who Broadcast F1. and they will not show you the champagne celebrity cause Islamic World. and on Sunday It’s working day in the Arab world. so 4 years for me in Qatar i never watch F1 Live. i Tried to enter cafe’ but it’s dangerous to change the channel to F1.

  42. The only sports I watch on TV are F1, V8’s and some of the other Channel 5 early morning motorsport offerings and the GT’s on Channel 4. I don’t have any interest in the Olympics, cricket, football, golf, sailing or tennis etc. other than the brief mentions which they get on the national news.
    There is no prospect of my paying for a sports package on a pay-to-view channel, so will miss F1 if it should no longer be available on Freeview.
    I don’t know how much influence the teams/manufacturers have in this debate, but Herr Haug has stated that he wishes to maximise media coverage of the Mercedes brand.

  43. Here is a petition to save BBC F1

    They should have asked enough people to get a clear picture of the support for F1 on free to air tv – have your say – we are after all paying the bill!

    http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/bbcf1 or
    http://bit.ly/q8dNsI

    *PLEASE* Sign it, tweet it, pass it on

  44. Get Rid of Moto GP, i like it but f1 is more important to me

    1. If anything moto gp coverage should be expanded to include all 3 gp classes. 2 wrongs do not make a right.

  45. Any Sky bid for F1 has to be seen in the context of Max Mosley’s war with News International. The News Of The World exposed Mosley cavorting with prostitutes, effectively forcing him to stand down from the FIA. This exposure may have contributed to the death of Mosley’s son.

    Mosley won damages from the News Of The World because they alleged his sex party had a Nazi theme. He is now waging war by funding the legal fees of celebrities whose phones were allegedly hacked by the News Of The World. The paper has now closed.

    Rupert Murdoch supported the Conservative party in the 2010 General Election, clearly hoping they would permit a full takeover of BSkyB and support his business interests. Once in government George Osborne froze the BBC licence fee for the next 5 years. This has forced the BBC to find savings and put the F1 coverage under threat.

  46. I am pretty sure that showing European TV on a pay-per-view channel is illegal…

  47. Who can we lobby to get Formula One added to the list ?

  48. No matter what your position on this, F1 fan or not, the basic facts are that the BBC looses more money by keeping this half assed deal going than if they’d just defaulted & shown nothing, or better still, held on to the contract until 2013 & not bid for additional rights. And by the BBC loosing money, that means the tax payer.
    The only one’s who win in this are Sky & Bernie Ecclestone – plus some of the teams, but for a temporary period only.

  49. UK has 3 drivers.

    You forgot Paul di Resta from Scotland.

    Its the death knell of F1 the whole lot will decamp shortly to elsewhere where they get a descent audience. 10 million subscribers to SKY and how many have sky sports, BARB figures speak for themselves.

    Why did we pay through the BBC for the rights to a show that involves someone standing behind a curtain and singing – ideal for radio that one but surely they have enough brains to come up with that themselves.

    1. You forgot Paul di Resta from Scotland.

      No I didn’t. See the date on the article.

  50. I’ve come to this late, but there is a floor in your reasoning. Hamilton and Button are not representing the nation, they are representing their teams and themselves and happen to be from the nation of Britain.

    Yes, F1 has a tradition of flying the national flag of the winning driver. But that’s unrelated to what is meant by representing your country.

    You wouldn’t say ordinarily that golfers represent their countries when they play, only at an event like the President’s Cup could that be said. Similarly only in A1GP were drivers representing a nation.

    Cyclists represent their country at the Olympics (even as individuals) but not in the Tour de France. There they, like F1 drivers in a GP, are representing their team.

    Swimmers pretty much always represent their country at international meets because countries travel together as teams. Relay teams are only formed from nations, but even as individuals they are representing a country. In F1, countries do not travel together, there is no national team of Britain, and every team on the grid contains a mix of different nationalities.

    Your other points are sound Keith, but on this one point I think you have it wrong.

    1. flaw not floor, ugh.

    2. I disagree. Any sportsman is supporting their nation in anything they do.

      I’m an Aussie and I take great pride in Webber and Ricciardo driving in Formula 1.

      1. I’m proud of those guys too, they are ambassadors for our country in F1 but that’s not the same as representing your country. I’m proud as an Aussie of Cadel Evans as well, but he wasn’t representing Australia in the Tour de France, he was an Australian in the Tour de France. It’s not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing or how we feel about the drivers, it’s a matter of how the phrase is defined.

  51. Some one in the media said “The devil is in the detail” of the new TV deal. Well to me the detail is that the BBC coverage is the best in the world! And the BBC should be able to sell it all over the world (even subtitled/dubbed for foreign languages) and be allowed to continue and be the sole global provider Free to air.

    Where else would you get world class presentation from 3 F1 drivers (DC, Brundle, Davidson) an Ex F1 Boss, and two excellent hosts Jake and David Croft on BBC1 HD (for no extra cost) and 5 live radio, not to mention the Red button and the Forum.

    This detail has what has made the sport so great, the quality if the presentation and the insightful reports and up close and personal interviews. The more this can be shown to the world the more fans the sport will gain rather than making it a pay per view extreme where only the hard core fans will pay the $$$ to see it and lose the casual interest of other potential fans.

    And i can asure you the extreme fans like me will be watching every single race live but i wont pay a penny to Sky, they’re many means and ways to do this!

    I also hate the fact the the TV industry has pushed HD on us before it was truly ready and now it is ready, it’s not become the standerd but a premium as they force us to pay for the HD versions of everything so not only will you have to pay your TV license, you then have to pay Sky, and then a premium for HD, it makes me mad!

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