The first three parts of my ‘2012 Verdict’ series looking at all things UK F1 Broadcasting focussed on the BBC and Sky teams and how they could be improved for 2013. Parts four, five and six will move onto focussing on the individual programming that each broadcaster puts out, starting with the BBC in this part.
BBC’s Formula 1 coverage starts on a Friday morning, with coverage of practice. For the live race weekends, practice is live behind the BBC Red Button service with commentary from the BBC Radio 5 Live team. For the highlight races, the coverage is on 5 Live only – minus the pictures. Coverage begins five minutes before the session, and finishes five minutes after the session, with footage fully from the Formula One Management (FOM) World Feed.
Despite this, the coverage that is provided is fantastic with James Allen, Jaime Alguersuari, Jennie Gow and Gary Anderson taking us through the action and inviting viewer discussion throughout via Twitter and e-mail. The format, which has been the same since 2009 when BBC won the rights from ITV, has largely worked.
With the reduction of BBC Red Button streams from five to one, however, one wonders how, if at all, this will affect BBC’s practice coverage. At this stage, it is impossible to know as BBC have not yet announced which races they will be covering live. But if there is a sport clash, then practice may draw the short straw and be restricted to online only. On the other hand, is there a possibility of some practice sessions being live on BBC Two? The Delivering Quality First changes (DQF) means that BBC Two’s daytime schedule will be radically overhauled, and CBBC being axed from BBC One and BBC Two. I don’t think practice being on BBC Two is very likely, but is definitely worth noting, in my opinion.
Introduced in 2009, Inside F1 for its first few years was largely presented in the BBC News’ studio, but since 2011 has been presented track side, in 2011 by Amanda Davies and 2012 by Lee McKenzie. Broadcast on the BBC News Channel, the programme rounds up the Friday action and features an interview or two.
There is not much to say here, except it feels completely out of place on BBC News. I’m not sure where else it could go there, maybe BBC Two at 19:00 as a result of the DQF changes, or BBC Three at 19:00 to appeal to a younger audience, but either way it being on BBC News feels out of place, but that’s just me. I think as a programme the format works, for those that just want a quick round-up of practice, and should be kept.
The pre-qualifying and pre-race programmes are normally an hour in length with Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan discussing and analysing key points, interspersed with VT’s. For me though, looking ahead to 2013, this could end up being the biggest drop down in terms of quality.
This year, and in previous years, we have seen some fantastic features with the three of them such as the Silverstone Wing Walking or camping in the middle of the Spa Francorchamps. The features worked and were widely praised. Yes, they were crazy and a bit bonkers, but that is why people loved them! My point us that all three people, Humphrey, Coulthard and Jordan were willing to do that. The dynamic between the three elsewhere in the build-up became top notch fast with little room for improvement. It is the area where it could all go wrong in 2013, depending on who the front man or woman could be. People choose BBC over Sky because of the build-up, and if the new presenter does not gel well, then that could turn the tide into Sky’s favour.
The quality of the VT’s should remain top notch as it has done so consistently since 2009, but as always it is the presenter who holds the show together, who keeps the viewers engaged and not many people can do that as well as Humphrey. It will be interesting to see how much the live build-ups change for 2013 with a new dynamic. Elsewhere, the new live grid walk with Coulthard has been a success, who has filled Martin Brundle’s role nicely in grabbing the right people at the right time. The highlights programmes should not change too much compared to this year as it is a quick intro, grid walk and into the race.
Post-qualifying and post-race coverage on the BBC largely remained the same for 2012. The main feature of the post-race coverage is the F1 Forum, which follows the main BBC One broadcast. For me, this was a huge advancement on ITV’s F1 coverage which had the tendency to rush off air wherever possible. The amount of time BBC dedicated to Formula 1 after the race had finished was more than any broadcaster previously. The format of the F1 Forum has changed slightly since 2009, instead of being based in a team motor home as they were in 2009 and 2010, in 2011, the team instead choosing to wander around the paddock to see who they could find. I think both formats have their positives and negatives, the motor home style allows for a more analytical style with more debate, whilst the wander around style allows them to pick up anyone they find along the way and see the team photos at the end of each race.
Whilst the F1 Forum has been there for live races, its absence from highlights races has been extremely disappointing. Yes, whilst there may be twenty minutes on BBC One after the highlights races, the F1 Forum allows for a more relaxed style and to discuss things that they may not have had time to discuss on the BBC One show. It says a lot when one of the best half an hour segments of the weekend was the recorded Bahrain Grand Prix forum. The joy of the forum is that it helps nicely wind down the weekend, and that video was for me one of the best pieces all season with the BBC wrapping up the action. I do hope the F1 Forum appears on the website for all the highlights races next year, even if it just a 20 minute cut.
Outside of the race weekend, all of BBC’s output happens online and on the Red Button with blogs from Andrew Benson and Gary Anderson. Also, the Classic F1 series has continued for several races on the Red Button, with extended highlights from several rounds including Belgium and Italy, reaffirming BBC’s commitment to covering the past in Formula 1 as well as the present.
On the whole, BBC’s output is top notch. But like any production, as always there are areas where improvements could be made. Part four will look at Sky Sports F1’s weekend output, and as always, your thoughts are welcome.