Don Foster MP

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Don Foster meets with BBC over F1

November 3, 2023 by admin in Don in Parliament, News

BBC executives have met with Don Foster MP to explain the reasons behind the new Formula 1 rights agreement with Sky.

Although much of the meeting cannot be reported due to commercial confidentiality, the BBC have since written to Don to clarify key points.

They reiterate that the BBC could not have hung onto its F1 rights any other way; that by early December they will announce their broadcast plans for the sport, which they believe will reassure fans; and that they did not stop other free-to-air broadcasters from bidding for the rights.

Don met with Barbara Slater (Director of BBC Sport), and Dominic Coles (Director of Sports Rights), and their follow up letter is reproduced below.

Commenting, Don Foster said:

“I remain continually disappointed by what has happened to F1 rights. I’ve made clear to the BBC that they can’t pretend this is anything other than a serious blow to fans. They must now focus on ensuring F1 viewers aren’t disappointed even further when their coverage plans are announced.

“I continue to be concerned about the future of F1 on television. The BBC has a reduced budget, Government can only pass so much regulation, and Sky are only doing what comes naturally to them by acquiring broadcast rights. The erosion of free-to-air F1 coverage will only really stop when Bernie Ecclestone makes a promise and sticks to it.”

The letter in full:

Dear Don

Thank you for meeting with us.

We appreciate your directness in trying to gain a greater understanding of the BBC’s ambition with our new shared rights deal for Formula 1 and for raising your detailed concerns on behalf of Formula 1 fans. As we discussed, for reasons of commercial confidentially, we could not go into some of the contractual details of the new arrangements. However, we reiterated our belief that our new deal represents the best possible value to all Licence Fee Payers in a very difficult financial climate, and confirmed the following:

1. If we had not agreed the new shared rights deal with BSkyB then the BBC would have had no choice other than to exit its coverage of Formula 1 due to the direct impact of the BBC’s Licence fee settlement and the need to make savings within our sports rights budget.

2. We discussed our emerging editorial plan that we believe will not only appeal to a broad audience but also to the dedicated Formula 1 fan. We are acutely aware of the concerns of some committed Formula 1 fans and we intend to announce publicly our detailed plans by early December. We believe that, when fans can see our plans, they will be reassured about the BBC’s commitment to the sport.

3. It is our understanding that other broadcasters had the opportunity to put forward their own proposals to Formula One Management (‘FOM’). However, as we explained, the decision to award the broadcast rights rested solely with FOM.

Once again, many thanks for your time.

Yours sincerely

Barbara Slater Dominic Coles