BBC to drop F1?


Martin Whitmarsh

(GMM) It would be "sad" and "unwise" if reports the BBC is considering dropping its live coverage of formula one in Britain are true.

That is the claim of McLaren and FOTA chief Martin Whitmarsh, following the Sunday Times article about the broadcaster axing F1 after 2013 in order to save money.

He said he and other "insiders" were surprised about the report that contains "significant inaccuracies" about the sport's television viewing figures.

Meanwhile, media analysis of the Sunday Times article has pointed out that the newspaper is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who has been reportedly interested in getting involved in F1, perhaps with his pay television network Sky.

Another possibility is that the BBC is kicking off negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone about reducing the value of its contract.

"One thing is clear," wrote correspondent Tom Cary in the Telegraph, "the BBC will never pay as much as it did last time."

Cary said he believes negotiations have begun amid the backdrop of Fuji (Japan) and Rai (Italy) managing successfully to renew their deals at lower rates.

Said Whitmarsh: "I think it would be very sad, and most unwise, if the BBC were to disappoint so many millions of British sports fans by axing it (F1), and that's why I don't believe for a moment that they'd seriously consider doing such a thing."

06/19/11 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. The BBC's F1 anchor Jake Humphrey has dismissed reports the British broadcaster is looking to drop its coverage of the sport beyond 2013.

The Sunday Times, citing "senior sources", is reporting that BBC chiefs are aiming to use the money saved by axing its expensive formula one coverage to avoid shutting down a digital channel.

"I have no inside information on its (the coverage's) future," host Humphrey wrote on Twitter.

"But I know little else gets the audience share and the millions that we do. BBC F1 is a huge success."

He added that there were "many inaccuracies" in the Sunday Times article.

06/19/11 The Sunday Times in England is claiming that the BBC has decided to drop its Formula 1 coverage after the 2013 season. The story quotes an unidentified source saying that the corporation will not bid to extend the current deal as it aims to trim its budgets.

The BBC took over F1 from ITV in 2009 and its F1coverage is beamed all over the world and has around 50 million viewers, globally. However there is no question that the annual cost of the deal with Formula One Management is expensive for the public service broadcaster and current domestic viewing figures have been disappointing. The recent Monaco Grand Prix attracted a maximum of only 6.1 viewers in the UK.

It should perhaps be noted that The Sunday Times is a newspaper owned by News Corporation, which is bidding to buy the global commercial rights of F1 from CVC Capital Partners. Clearly the loss of the BBC will impact on the price of such a deal. Joe Saward

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