Paul di Resta, Martin Brundle, Silverstone, 2011

So much for keeping F1 free-to-air

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Update: F1 fans in Britain are urged to support this petition to the government to make F1 a protected, free-to-air sporting event:

See here for more information:

Paul di Resta, Martin Brundle, Silverstone, 2011
The BBC's Martin Brundle interviews Paul di Resta on the grid at the British Grand Prix

F1 fans in the UK have reacted angrily to today’s news that Sky TV will take over much F1 broadcasting.

From next year, the only way to see a full season of F1 will be to buy a Sky Sports subscription. And they don’t come cheap.

For 12 months of Sky Sports a new user will have to pay ??487*. And that’s only if you want to see the action in standard definition.

To see every F1 race in HD next year the price goes up to an eye-watering ??610. No wonder Sky just announced annual profits of more than ??1bn.

This is surely not what F1 Teams’ Association chairman Martin Whitmarsh had in mind last month when he said: “It?s crucial to the commercial model of Formula 1 that TV coverage should remain free-to-air, and therefore universally accessible, and therefore widely consumed and enjoyed by large numbers of viewers ?ǣ and the BBC delivers that in the UK.”

It was a hot topic during the recent F1 Fans’ Forum at Silverstone where Whitmarsh told the assembled fans: “All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air television.”

The BBC says it will continue to show “half” of the races live. So far three out of a potential 21 rounds have been confirmed.

The upshot of this is clear: for F1 fans, who want to see all 20-odd rounds of their favourite sport, the broadcast is no longer free-to-air.

It is also exactly why the British government should have added F1 races to list of protected events when it last had the chance to do so in 2009.

There is hope for fans yet as the new deal may infringe upon the teams’ contract with Bernie Ecclestone.

Whitmarsh said last month: “Our current contracts require that F1 remain on free-to-air and the teams, through FOTA, are clearly going to safeguard their business interests and the interests of the fans in this regard.”

Let’s see if FOTA do what they said they would and safeguard the interests of fans who want to continue watching F1 as they can this year without paying over ??600 to do so.

Thank you for all your comments on the subject so far. Please continue to leave your thoughts below, and do let us know whether you’re a current Sky customer or not, and whether you will be next year.

Several people have asked how to register complaints or contact the people involved. You can contact FOTA here and the BBC’s complaints department here.

*12 months at ??39.75 per month plus a ??10 set-up fee. HD costs an extra ??10.25 per month


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