British Formula 1 fans will no longer tune in to the all-familiar bass guitar riff of The Chain – the BBC has opted for an early termination of its terrestrial broadcasting rights with immediate effect.

Channel 4 will instead become the new broadcasting channel for the next three years, showing ten Grands Prix live and ad-free, in addition to one-hour highlights of the remaining rounds.

The BBC recently outlined plans to slash its television sports rights expenditure, with axe falling on its joint-broadcast deal with Sky Sports with three years left to run on its contract.

Sky Sports will continue to broadcast all Formula 1 sessions live on its dedicated subscription channel.

“I am sorry that the BBC could not comply with their contract but I am happy that we now have a broadcaster [in Channel 4] that can broadcast Formula 1 events without commercial intervals during the race,” Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said.

“I am confident that Channel 4 will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past but also with a new approach as the World and Formula 1 have moved on.”

The BBC reclaimed Formula 1’s broadcasting rights in 2009 after a lengthy stint at ITV, and held it exclusively until it entered a joint-venture deal with Sky Sports.

“The Director General announced recently that the BBC needs to plug a £150 million annual gap in its finances from next year,” the Director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater, wrote.

“He outlined that two-thirds of the savings would come from ‘scope’ savings, meaning that the BBC would stop doing some of the things that we currently do.

“BBC Sport was asked to deliver approximately £35 million of these savings.

“This was due to the pressing need to realise the savings and the greater flexibility that BBC Sport has to deliver them compared to most other parts of the Corporation.

“No Director of Sport wants to be responsible for reducing the amount of sport on BBC TV. But the current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made,” she added.

“There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences. Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly.”

While the news means the end of the BBC’s TV broadcasting presence, it will continue with its radio rights broadcasting until at least 2021 as well as its online coverage.

Full details of Channel 4′ broadcasting plans – and who will fill the highly coveted hosting and commentary roles – will be announced in early 2016.

Image via BBC

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Geoff Burke

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