BBC cancel F1 TV contract with immediate effect

As a lifelong BBC and Formula 1 fan it was with shock and sadness that I heard the news on Monday 21 December that the BBC would be terminating their F1 contract with immediate effect.

Amidst struggles and controversy over the past year in which the BBC and the government have been discussing the license fee renewal and channels such as BBC3 have been forced online due to cutbacks it seems that F1 is the next to face the chop.

The point of the BBC is that it is for everyone; whether you love soap (EastEnders), entertainment (Strictly Come Dancing, The Great British Bake Off), drama (Doctor Who), nature (David Attenborough) or sport, the BBC is always there to provide what you want, when you want, with excellent coverage across all areas.

Slowly but surely plenty of programmes that engage audiences are being forced away from the BBC with talk that children’s channels CBBC and CBeebies will also move online and possibly even the end of the BBC Red Button service which allows audiences extra insights into not only sports but also music and other various entertainment shows.

With the expansion of online services such as BBC iPlayer it shows that the corporation is moving in the right direction when it comes to being competitive but as it tries to save money in all areas it still baffles me that the online service can be accessed by anyone at any time.

An obvious simple solution, to me anyway, would be to ensure that all iPlayer users have to register with a BBC ID (as you must if you vote for shows such as Strictly and Sports Personality of the Year) but to view online services you should have to enter a personal reference code which would be given to you upon payment of your television subscription.

During a recent Radio Times research project into the BBC and its license fee the magazine worked out that payment of the fee equates to approximately 14p a day – less than a paper or even a chocolate bar. For those not willing to pay for this, and for such great television coverage, then they shouldn’t be expected to be able to watch online BBC services for free.

But back to the issue in hand and the loss of Formula 1 from the BBC. Across the past few seasons, due to channels like Sky, the BBC has faced ever increasing trouble in acquiring rights for the sport. It has become far too expensive and as such last season the BBC were only able to show half of the races live, with the other nine being highlights programmes, as they shared the rights with Sky Sports to lower costs.

There are still three more years left of the BBC contract but they have chosen to cut their ties now as they look to make mammoth savings across the company, BBC Sport asked to make £35m in savings alone.

Barbara Slater, BBC’s Director of Sport, released a statement on Monday:

“The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made…A significant chunk of BBC Sport’s savings target will be delivered through the immediate termination of our TV rights agreement for Formula 1.”

BBC Radio 5 Live, however, have extended their coverage with F1 until 2021.

Slater also stated: “Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly. There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.”

Formula 1 may possibly have been the easiest target in this situation, the most expensive and possibly one of the lesser watched as issues within the sport have been driving fans away of late. For the British it was another spectacular season as Lewis Hamilton drove to his third world title but it seems that even this cannot save it.

It has been announced by the broadcaster that Channel 4 will take on the rights for F1 going into next season but whether their coverage proves to equal that of their forebears remains to be seen.

What do you make of this? Have your say in the comments below.