Dear Michael Grade

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

ITVCongratulations on your new job!

I’m sure you have many pressing matters to attend to since being installed as the new boss of ITV, so I’ll keep this brief.

I wanted to say a quick few words about ITV’s F1 coverage. Now, I know you’re a sports fan – former Daily Mirror sports correspondent and board member of Charlton Athletic football club – so I hope you’ll appreciate my concerns about ITV’s F1 coverage.

ITV took over F1 broadcasting ten years ago and the quality of its coverage has not improved in that time – in fact, it’s deteriorated.

The loss of Murray Walker in 2001 was unfortunate. The general public has not received his replacement, James Allen, very well, and there seems to be a reluctance at ITV to confront that fact.

Former expert pundits Simon Taylor and Tony Jardine are gone. In their place we have Mark Blundell whose position as an ex-F1 driver is superfluous when you already have the excellent Martin Brundle. A senior, more informed and TV-savvy co-host is needed.

Replacing Jim Rosenthal with Steve Rider was certainly a step in the right direction. But ITV’s F1 coverage is fundamentally flawed in a massive way for a single reason.


Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2006The Formula One World Championship was virtually decided this year when Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari failed in Suzuka. British fans missed it because ITV were on an advert break.

Just as in 1998 the title was decided when Schumacher suffered a puncture. British fans missed it because ITV were on an advert break.

And in 2005 when Fernando Alonso and Schumacher went wheel-to-wheel in the dying stages of the San Marino Grand Prix in one of the most thrilling conclusions for years. British fans missed it because ITV were on an advert break.

You will know very well that both BBC and ITV showed the football World Cup final live this year, and that BBC’s coverage was watched by far, far more people than ITV’s. Now in football, sensibly, adverts are not allowed to intrude upon the live coverage.

But can you imagine the uproar if it were, and if Zinedine Zidane’s notorious head-butt on Marco Materazzi was missed by British fans because ITV were showing the Swiftcover chickens instead?

I realise adverts are a touchy subject for ITV. After all, your predecessor Charles Allen basically lost his job because ITV’s advertising revenue has plunged in successive years.

This is why an innovative new approach to advertising in your F1 coverage is needed. The mid-race adverts are insulting to F1 fans and are an enormous obstacle to giving F1 the professional, detailed coverage it deserves.

I wonder how respected a title sponsor for ITV’s F1 coverage would be if the introduction of every race paid tribute to the fact that their contribution allowed you to broadcast the races uninterrupted? Among the millions of people who watch F1 on ITV, that would surely have enormous value.

The present arrangement with GMTV, where ITV cannot show live qualifying coverage of certain rounds because GMTV own the rights to the airtime, simply has to go. To try and cover a World Championship but not ignore what is often the most crucial part of each round makes a mockery of your coverage – and ITV’s reputation as a sports broadcaster.

Yes, I’m asking a lot because I’m an F1 fan. No, I’m not offering any easy answers.

Except one: if you’re not going to commit to covering F1 properly, with every round live and uninterrupted, then give up trying to pretend to the world that ITV can do decent sports coverage.

Give the rights back to Bernie Ecclestone, let him sell them to someone who’ll do a decent job, and ITV can air all the ‘Celebrity Love Island’ guff it wants.

Best of luck in your new job. Please don’t forget about us F1 fans.

Yours sincerely,

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One comment on “Dear Michael Grade”

  1. Hear hear! I could not agree more. I’m afraid you’ve inspored an anti-Allen rant here.

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