Friday, 29 July 2011

Goodbye Free F1...

I awoke to the awful news that F1 will be moving to Sky Sports from 2012 - 2018, with BBC showing only half the races in each season. We'd been hearing a lot lately that F1 was likely to be moving away from the BBC, however the teams had been adamant that F1 must be free-to-air. This seems to have gone out of the window entirely, and I for one know that my days of watching F1 each race are probably numbered. Let me explain...

I currently have a Sky subscription, however it's the most basic package and so it's affordable. From 2012 should I want to watch F1 as I do now I will have to pay an extra £30.50 per month. I can't afford this. Now, it's probably not the end of the world as I'll still be able to watch highlights of the races on the BBC - obviously not live. I doubt I'll be able to see qualifying or any of the practice sessions either, at least not live or in their entirety.

So, for me to watch F1 in HD for every practice, quali and race from 2012 - 2018 it will cost me a total of £2562. Fair enough, this is over a 7 year period, but this hardly seems like F1 is free-to-air. So it seems like for all the teams' shouting and screaming that F1 must be free-to-air (because of sponsorship and such), this just won't happen because someone wants to make or save a buck. As I've already stated, highlights and half the races live doesn't make F1 free-to-air - we should be able to see a whole season.

Now, aside from the money aspect of the new F1 deal I have to point out F1 in the context of the ethical issues of Sky. Recently the phone hacking scandal has centred around Rupert Murdoch, to the point where Parliament forced Murdoch to halt a take-over deal. There seem to be no such ethical considerations in Bernie Ecclestone's mind. Do we really want F1 to be associated with a company which is involved in phone hacking of innocent people to sell a story? If anything, the hacking scandal led people to want to boycott Sky. As F1 fans, we have no choice and Murdoch gets more money in his billionaire scheme.

Also, Sky Sports was recently associated with a sexism row, with two pundits making somewhat patronising and sexist comments about a female referee in a football match. Ok, I admit that I'm the world's worst feminist, but I don't want F1 to turn into a boys club, with commentators ogling the pit girls and not talking about the cars. It seems unlikely that we'd be lucky enough to keep the team of Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan, David Coulthard and Martin Brundle, so we could lose the expertise of the current team.

As if the cost and association with Murdoch wasn't enough, the move away from the BBC means that we could be losing the opening programme before qualifying and races, losing the amazing commentary team, losing Martin Brundle's grid walk and losing The Chain. All because the BBC want to save a buck and Murdoch and Ecclestone want to make a little more. This isn't acceptable. Pricing fans out is one of the worst crimes of any sport, and I doubt that many fans will stand for this. With any luck, teams will protest. However, luck isn't on our side. So, we'll have to see what happens, although by the look of it this could be the last season that I get to watch in full and I for one intend to enjoy it.