Welcome to Formula One 2012…BBC Style!!

Today I am having a Likely Lads morning, for those of you not old enough to remember the Likely Lads they were a couple of Geordies played by James Bolam and Rodney Bewes in the 70’s sitcom about life in Newcastle seen through the eyes of the two leading characters. A more modern interpretation of the episode I am reliving today was done by Ant and Dec not so many years ago.

The episode, well it was the classic where the two lads spent all day avoiding the news, TV, pub talk and gossip so that they could sit down late at night and watch the highlights of a vital football match without knowing the score!

Welcome to Formula One on the BBC…circa 2012!!!

Yes, a few hours ago in Melbourne Australia the Qualifying round of the opening Grand Prix of the season took place and those lucky enough to be able to afford Sky were able to watch it live as it happened. I don’t have Sky and therefore I have spent the morning walking the dog, reading a book, having a shower, washing some clothes and basically doing all I can to switch off from modern life. My BlackBerry is off, I have ignored Twitter and the TV remains dark in the corner of the room…I am cut off from the world of Motorsport until 1pm when the BBC will show the Qualifying session on Freeview. I am even writing this blog offline in case something popped up on my screen when I logged online to spoil my afternoon viewing.

The BBC have played a blinder really, budget cuts I can understand if that’s what they had to do in order to keep the licence fee competitive but the way they have gone about this new F1 season seems strange given their reasoning behind the deal with Sky. I call it a deal, it wasn’t really, they gave up F1 to Sky and pay-tv and in return they got to keep a few scraps from the rotting carcass.

10 races live and 10 with highlights (and it seems not even re-run ‘as live’ races either but actual cut highlights)…

The BBC only had eyes for the Olympics this year and that was the focus of the budget planning, everything else no matter how popular was going to be demoted, even their F1 coverage which has seen them win awards and a respectable audience share for the sport…faced with London 2012 they made a choice and didn’t give a jot about the loyal fanbase they were building up.

The reason I am surprised (as many are) about the basis of the decision – to save money – is that they have still sent their full presenting and production team to Australia to make a highlights show, as they will with the other 10 races not to be shown live…how is that saving money? Surely if they can still send everyone half way across the globe they may as well show the race live, they had the rights to it and gave them away! It makes no sense!

The actual race feed of an F1 race is supplied by F1 itself, from the logo credit at the beginning that leads to a fly in shot to the track until the champagne is showered at the end is a single feed supplied to every network around the world that shows F1, they all get the same pictures! Its only the build up and aftermath that the individual broadcasters produce themselves…as the BBC are doing today and tomorrow in Australia, so why if they are still doing that have they given up the live rights to the race…its staggering really and very difficult to understand.

Sky will do their best to ruin F1 coverage, their audience will be massively lower than the BBC’s for obvious reasons, they will try to ‘jazz’ it up as they do all their sports – look at Darts on Sky!!!…and they will pitch their coverage at the lowest level they can to make a profit because at the end of the day that’s all Sky care about, making money and making profits!

I caught their season preview programme last week which was shown on Pick TV (Sky’s freeview scraps channel for those of us with council telly)…it was amateur to say the least and less than informative, especially given the high standards of information and production the BBC have done since they rescued F1 back from ITV a few years ago. ITV coverage was bad, but Sky can take it to a whole new level of bad if they are allowed to ‘jazz’ it up…

And so with still and hour and a half to kill till I can watch the BBC coverage I am switched off to the world, once today is done I will have to repeat this for a further 19 days covering Qualifying and Races around the world…given I am attached to my BlackBerry with love it is going to be a hard slog, sadly I don’t have a fast enough broadband connection or I may well have ditched the BBC too and watched the action online on one of the many sites that happily show it on the internet…but wait patiently I must and will, the BBC coverage better be worth it!!

At the end of the Likely Lads episode they sat down to watch the game secure in the knowledge that they had managed to avoid the result all day only to find out the match had been postponed…if that happens to me at any point during 2012 I may well kill someone!!

Let the season begin….