Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Thursday, 20 March 2008

MP's question over BBC's F1 deal

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in Melbourne
ITV has held the UK rights to Formula One for the last 12 years

BBC editors should have been "probing" their senior managers more about the corporation securing Formula One TV coverage, a Labour MP has said.

Andrew MacKinlay said BBC coverage of the story had been too celebratory and lacked questions about costs.

He said the licence fee should be spent on "real sports rather than the wealthy industry of Formula One", he argued.

A BBC spokesman said managers had been available for interview. He said public response to the deal had been positive.

He said it was "standard practice" not to discuss the value of such deals owing to "commercial sensitivity".

"The public response to the BBC's announcement, judging by our message boards and blogs, has been overwhelmingly positive - and people are particularly pleased about the opportunity to watch F1 live and uninterrupted," he added.

'Brought to book'

The BBC's five-year deal, across TV, radio and online, begins next March and will end 12 years of televised race coverage on ITV.

ITV is currently three years into its own five-year contract but said it had decided to end the arrangement for "commercial" reasons.

Andrew MacKinlay
Andrew MacKinlay is the Labour MP for Thurrock in Essex

At the weekly Business Questions session in the Commons, Mr MacKinlay claimed that "in bulletin after bulletin on the BBC, they went on about Formula One being won by the BBC".

"The question they didn't ask or probe the management was how much the licence-payer is going to have to pay for something which could be provided, and should be provided, on commercial television."

And he went on: "Isn't it time that the BBC news editors were brought to book? They should be probing BBC management rather than crawling to it."

In response, Commons leader Harriet Harman promised to raise the matter with Andy Burnham, the culture secretary.

"I'm sure that the top brass of the BBC will have heard what he said, loud and clear," she added.

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