Reports in the British media claim the BBC may have to drop its major sports events coverage – including its Formula 1 broadcasts – as part of achieving a £600 million annual saving target by the year 2014.

Is the BBC looking to dump its F1 broadcasting rights? The government-owned broadcaster is facing a loss in earning revenue stemming from a government-imposed freeze on TV license fees – calculated at £145 per household – forcing the network’s senior managers to look at it’s more expensive broadcasts, namely its £40 million a year spend on Formula 1, according to the Guardian newspaper.

While helped by having two top-line British stars in the form of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, it is considered a rather expensive part of the network’s entire £600 million  a year sport budget, particularly given it is largely not broadcast in primetime viewing hours.

But dropping it immediately would prove costly, especially given the BBC – which bought the broadcasting rights from under ITV’s nose at the end of 2008 for a considerable sum – still has another three years before its current contract runs out.

Furthermore, its extensive investment to improve its broadcast offerings – with more pre- and post-race analysis, the widely-used ‘Red Button’ function and simulcast on BBC Radio 5 Live – has made it popular with fans, who enjoy the ad-free broadcasting that the BBC offers.

While it would seem that the BBC’s football and tennis coverage would be largely safe from being plundered, Formula 1 could be vulnerable in this forecasted period of belt-tightening.

The network is also looking to trim its costs in the areas of local radio and regional TV, incoming BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten conceding that “all hell will break loose” when the full gamut of cost-cutting initiatives is made public.

At this stage, the BBC is keeping relatively quiet on these rumours, with a spokesperson for the networking simply stating: “We are looking at a range of ideas and it would be wrong to comment on what is speculation.”

What is interesting is that few British media outlets have run this story other than the Guardian, whose columnist (and former editor) Peter Preston – well-known for his active dislike of Formula 1 – welcomed this possible rumour with glee.

“Why on earth should your (and my) licence fee keep Bernie Ecclestone and, until recently, Max Mosley in the manner accustomed?” he wrote in his column, which was littered with gross factual errors.

“How, as the planet warms, do we justify flying tons of heavy metal from Rio to Kuala Lumpur in order, once a fortnight, to send them gas-guzzling and carbon-emitting round yet another ring of concrete?

“The whole notion is a simple affront to anyone who even vaguely registers climate change. It’s a suicide note we underwrite year after year. Let Bernie (and Lewis, in his Swiss tax exile) knock on somebody else’s door,” he adds.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.