Mark Webber, Jake Humphrey, Monaco, 2011

MP demands answers over BBC/Sky F1 deal

TelevisionPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mark Webber, Jake Humphrey, Monaco, 2011
The BBC's Jake Humphrey interviews Mark Webber in Monaco

A Liberal Democrat MP has written to Bernie Ecclestone and BBC director general Mark Thompson seeking an explanation for the controversial 2012 broadcasting deal that was struck with Sky.

In his letter to Ecclestone, Don Foster MP said: “I am concerned about the apparently divergent views of FOM and the BBC about the sequence of events.

“You have said that keeping F1 on free to air was a major priority […] I highlight this point because it directly contradicts the BBC’s own account of what happened.”

Foster added: “I am alarmed that there is such a gulf between your stories.

“This deal has led to disappointment and anger among F1 fans and now they have to sift through completely contradictory accounts of who decided what. The least fans deserve is a clear explanation of what has happened. I urge you to give it.

“I am not complaining about the realities of the BBC, BSkyB and FOM having their own interests. Nor do I doubt that those involved in this arrangement worked hard to balance their competing aims.

“But I am deeply concerned at the claim that the BBC facilitated this result, and believe the parties in these negotiations must clarify the glaring discrepancies in their accounts of what happened.

“More generally, I am disappointed that F1 fans in the UK did not have a loud voice speaking up for their interests.”

According to the Daily Mirror, the Commons? Culture, Media and Sport select committee will question Thompson and other BBC executives over claims they blocked rival free-to-air broadcasters from picking up the F1 rights.

A petition against the deal has attracted 24,000 signatures so far.

Meanwhile the BBC has not confirmed reports it will screen its ten non-live races in full, but delayed, on its Red Button channel in 2012.

Read Foster’s letters to Ecclestone and Thompson here and here.

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