Formula One Coverage Could be Axed to Save BBC Four
June 20, 2011
After it was reported that new BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten was willing to drop one of the broadcasters major sporting agreements in a bid to cut the company’s budget, it has been widely suggested that it’s Formula One coverage could be the one to go.
The BBC is searching for ways to cut costs in the wake of the recent licence fee settlement and Patten holds the BBC World Service in the highest regard and is willing to trim its sports coverage in order to save BBC Four, according to the latest rumblings.
Lord Patten had recently indicated the corporation was thinking about closing one of its digital television channels as a money-saving measure, however it has now emerged that others at the BBC have different ideas about how it can trim its budget to cope with the financial realities of the licence fee being frozen until 2017.
A source told the Sunday Times, senior executives are thinking about dropping its F1 coverage when the current contract expires in 2013 and will include the idea in a detailed cuts proposal to be presented to the BBC Trust later this year.
The corporation pays £60 million a year for the rights to the 19 F1 races and the cost of covering F1 is believed to be more than the entire annual budget for BBC Four, which would be saved if the broadcaster goes ahead with the plan to drop the motor racing.
Axing F1 from the schedules would allow it to continue showing Wimbledon and Match of the Day.
The reports have led to angry responses from some of the highest profile professionals at F1 and chief Bernie Ecclestone has insisted that he will push to convince the BBC to renew its £200m deal to stay as Formula 1’s UK broadcaster.
Ecclestone stated: “We want Formula One to stay free to viewers. That is 100%. The BBC have done a great job for us and we like their shows and the people obviously like it because so many are watching. They did warn me that they were facing problems but, so far, nothing more has been said. I hope they want to keep us because it is such a success and I will do my best to keep Formula 1 on the BBC.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has also urged the BBC to rebid for Formula 1 when its five-year deal expires in 2013, hitting out at what he claims are “significant inaccuracies” in a Sunday newspaper report alleging the corporation is poised to axe the sport as part of its cost-saving drive.