I think it is fair to say that in their first season since returning to broadcast Formula One to British fans, the BBC have done a pretty good job. There are few gripes which I know many are happy to vocalise at any given opportunity, but I speak for myself when I say that these are generally few and far between. When ITV presented the show, they had perhaps one very good and one less-so good commentator, they had a pretty good build-up show and produced some interesting pieces on the nuances of the sport. From where I’m sitting, the BBC are in a very similar situation with the exception of two major things.
The first and most obvious is the lack of adverts on the BBC. Being funded by those who watch, the BBC channels do not require advertising money to produce their content and so we, the humble viewer watching from the comfort of our sofas can enjoy uninterrupted coverage. I really do not think any more needs to be said on this other than a huge hurray.
The second major point only came to my attention this evening as I watched the qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix. The session was wet and suffered numerous delays, leading to much filling in by the host Jake Humphrey and his two companions, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan. While Eddie Jordan annoys me sometimes, the banter generated is usually acceptable and in cases such as this evening, it was necessary to break up the commentary between the box and the paddock.
However, with the over-run came the inevitable dread of seeing qualifying be forced off-air due to not wanting to interrupt other scheduled programming. And to cap it all off, this is Saturday at 8pm – I believe it is called primetime in the business. The show due to follow the Formula One coverage was the ever popular (although I have no interest in it myself) Strictly Come Dancing, a show in which celebrity contestants essentially commit to a dance-off, I am led to believe. But with Bruce Forsyth at the helm, you can understand that the show does not want to be dropped; the outcry from Brucey’s fans would probably outweigh the British Formula One fans, unfortunately.
So, with the programming having already been delayed – well done BBC for pushing the limit a little – it came down to the crunch: should the Formula One coverage only continue online, or should Strictly be rescheduled for Sunday evening or similar?
Well, I was blown away. I saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, certainly not from ITV. The BBC switched the live coverage from BBC1 to BBC2. I have no idea what was on BBC2 that got dropped as I watch online and therefore didn’t have any problems whatsoever, but the decision to switch the channels meant that viewers up and down the country who watch via their TVs didn’t suffer. And of course, Mr Forsyth was allowed to dance to his heart’s content on BBC1.
I do remember that often ITV would show qualifying on one of their secondary channels, and this was also at a time when they weren’t readily available as the UK was still mostly analogue. With the digital conversion, ITV2 et al are better available now, but even then, they are still not considered to be in the same league as BBC2 as the Beebs main two channels are both terrestrial (as in, they were always available to everyone pre-digital as well).
So I just wanted to thank the BBC for their commitment to Formula One, and for putting on a good show this season. Even though we still have two races to run, I think the team at Auntie Beeb have done a sterling job and today’s difficulties only further highlight this.
Image © Getty Images.