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Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Thursday, 20 March 2008

Formula One to return to BBC TV

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Interview: F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone

The BBC has secured the television rights to show Formula One in the UK from the 2009 season.

The five-year deal for an undisclosed fee marks F1's return to BBC screens 12 years after it switched to ITV.

The contract covers all platforms and will see F1 broadcast on the BBC Sport website, as well as on TV and radio.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he was "delighted", adding: "The BBC has some innovative ideas to consolidate and expand our UK fan base."

Among the new developments will be live video coverage of F1 on the BBC Sport website.

Asked why he had decided to split with ITV, Ecclestone told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It's not that we are unhappy with ITV but I think maybe they will have their hands full with other things and maybe the BBC can service us a bit better.

I'm absolutely flabbergasted - I almost fell out of bed when I heard it

Murray Walker
Former F1 commentator

"I think it will be good, a fresh face. I'm not complaining about ITV, I'm not saying they did a bad job or anything like that.

"But with all the other things they are loaded up with - and who knows they will get some more stuff - maybe it will be a bit more difficult to spend as much time on us.

"I think the BBC will do that."

Dominic Coles, BBC Sport director of sport rights, said: "The biggest motorsporting event in the world is returning home after 12 years.

"We were delighted when Bernie Ecclestone approached us about the return of F1 to the BBC.

Damon Hill celebrates winning the Formula One title in 1996
Damon Hill was the last man to win the title when the BBC had F1

"F1 is a crown jewel of sports broadcasting, so to bring the rights back to their traditional home from 2009 is tremendously exciting.

"Fans will be able to enjoy uninterrupted, state of the art and innovative coverage from BBC Sport, across all of our TV, radio and new media platforms, for the first time since 1996."

ITV, which was in the third year of a five-year deal, released a statement saying it had "decided to exit F1 at the end of this season".

It added that it was a "straightforward commercial decision".

BBC director of sport Roger Mosey said: "Our understanding is that F1 did have a termination right at the end of the 2008 season, and that appears to be what has happened, and we're absolutely delighted F1 will be back on the BBC this time next year."


Murray Walker, former F1 commentator for both the BBC and ITV, said: "I'm absolutely flabbergasted - I was lying in bed listening to the news this morning and I almost fell out of bed when I heard it.

"It's an amazing development because I think ITV did and do a superb job, and I think there is more to this than meets the eye."

BBC sports news correspondent Adam Parsons said: "ITV are saying it was a straightforward commercial decision. A lot of people I have spoken to have queried that.

"Within ITV, what they are saying is that even though Lewis Hamilton is great, even though the Brazilian Grand Prix [at the end of last year] got huge viewing figures, that actually over the course of a year viewing figures are not that impressive, they're not that great.

"A lot of races are happening at night, they're not happening at peak time. That it is not particularly good value for money.

"The other side of that is the BBC is saying, Lewis Hamilton and the ripple effect of that is wonderful, millions of people tune in and the Brazilian GP was the most-watched sports event of last year.

"You might say ITV would rather bad-mouth it because they've just lost the rights but on the one hand they're saying it's a straightforward commercial decision.

"But on the other plenty of people are saying that having spent a decade broadcasting when a German, a Finn and a Spaniard were winning world titles, it seems a bit curious [for ITV] to pull out when a Brit is on the verge of winning it."

see also
Hamilton wary of heat in Malaysia
20 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Ferrari will be back - Raikkonen
19 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Todt steps down as Ferrari boss
18 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton stance on union 'wrong'
18 Mar 08 |  Motorsport
Toro Rosso team put up for sale
18 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Australia F1 night race ruled out
17 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton hails 'career-best' win
16 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton wins dramatic F1 opener
16 Mar 08 |  Formula One

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