It’s been around two months since UK Formula 1 fans learnt that only half of races from next year will be shown live on free to air TV, in that time more questions than answers have come to the surface. The truth is out there, but I think it will take more than Liberal Democrat MP, Don Foster, let alone X Files duo Mulder and Scully!
Foster is reacting to fans concerns following nearly 25,000 signatures on an online petition. With the BBC and FOM both claiming that the other pushed through the deal with Sky, Foster has written to both parties to seek clarification on the matter. In a letter the Bernie Ecclestone, Foster states that the new deal isn’t in ‘the best interest of the licence payers and F1 fans’ and goes on to say, ‘In particular 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.’
In an equally strong worded letter to BBC Director General, Mark Thomson, Foster remarks, ‘The BBC may broadcast half the races, but this means nothing to fans who want to watch the whole season live. They cannot buy half a Sky package. For them, all of the rights may as well have gone to BSkyB, as it will cost them exactly the same. But this would have violated the Concorde Agreement and the many public statements that FOM have made about the importance of free to air, meaning that the BBC have legitimised the otherwise indefensible situation of fans being denied access to F1.’
Although the outcome of these questions won’t make any difference to the deal, questions over what exactly the BBC will be showing must be able to be answered? Well no is the answer! You would expect, as do I, that the BBC would have come straight out of the blocks to say yes, we will show every race in full and yes, full re runs will be available on the red button. Instead, two month later the ‘powers that be’ are still evaluating their coverage for next year and won’t comment until the final decision has been made. Bernie Ecclestone has been quoted in the Independent that the BBC would only be allowed to screen “75 minutes of every race”. With everything said from the two parties being in conflict with the other, I think we can expect a drawn out saga of claim and counterclaim from both sides with the only loser being the fans (as ever).