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Posts from August 2011

The BBC are weird

Wednesday 10th August 2011

I’m somewhat late to blog about this (although I have tweeted about it rather extensively), but a couple of weeks ago it was announced that from next year the BBC is only going to show half of the Formula 1 races live. The other half of the season will be broadcast live by Sky, with delayed highlights shown on the BBC. Unsurprisingly, lots of people are very unhappy about this.

Whether or not this is a good thing for F1 and for the BBC is a pretty long discussion, and one where we probably don’t know all the answers. Whether it’s good for F1 depends on whether viewing figures drop in the next few years; for the BBC, they’re rumoured to be saving about £20m per year. Which is great! It means they can spend it on quality programming. I mean, if they didn’t drop the F1 coverage, would the BBC have been able to buy the rights to The Voice, an “X Factor-style singing show“?

Hang on. They’ve cut their coverage of a global sport in order to finance shit like this? They’d like to put on another boring, inconsequential talent show, rather than broadcast a sport that the British are actually good at? More than that, F1 is a sport which showcases British engineering and manufacturing, and inspires people to go into those industries. As a public service broadcaster isn’t it more worthwhile for the BBC to show things like that?

I’m not against paying to watch F1 per se, I just question the wisdom of moving to that model. For the sport the risk is that viewing figures will drop, as casual viewers drop away. And for the BBC, it just seems mental; as well as reasons I’ve already mentioned, it’s also one of their most-watched programmes. On the day of the last race a week or so ago, just under half of everyone who watched TV, watched F1 on the BBC. There’s even a report by the BBC which looked at their sport expenditures, and seems to show that F1 is pretty good value compared to the other sports they show. Why would you want to give that up to make what are really pretty modest savings? Wouldn’t it have made far more sense to cut production costs?

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