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BBC F1 TV coverage – Australia

How do the BBC compare to the job ITV did last year? ITV weren’t perfect, but the BBC weren’t that much different. So much for their “huge coverage” they promised. So what was it like?

All I can say is “Thank Goodness for Martin Brundle!” Without this giant professional of a commentator holding the ship together the TV coverage would have sunk fast.

First of all, they picked a Radio Commentator to do a TV man’s job. Jonathan Legard spent far too much time describing the picture we could all see – such as the long shadows on the track – and not enough time pointing out the important differences between duelling cars. In a new season where KERS gives some cars advantages of acceleration in close battles, either to attack or defend, Legard practically never said which car had the system. It really would have been helpful when cars were challenging for places to know which one had the advantage of extra power. You’d have thought as an ex-Radio 5 Live F1 radio man he would at least have some special phrases he could use, but he repeatedly added nothing new, just copying the rather weak James Allen repertoire from ITV eg “He’s in the Pound Seats now…”

Legard was rather over-excited to the point of incoherence at many times during the race – I guess he was nervous, but he does look like one of those skinny, nervy, jumpy people who can never sit still. He just tried to put too many words into the same space at the same time, and this just doesn’t work well when you are commentating. That’s a beginner’s error which all his year’s in broadcasting should have taken out of him. It wasn’t just the speed of his delivery though, he also made many factual mistakes and needed to be corrected a number of times by the brilliant Brundle. One can only assume his job as a Football Commentator for the last few years prevented him seeing enough F1 races on ITV to become familiar with the way things are done these days – saying Jenson was on Pole and doing his “wrap up speech” while cars that could easily have displaced Jenson were still finishing their laps really showed his lack of F1 knowledge.

Where do broadcasters get their female pit lane reporters from, though? The ITV had the atrocious Louise Goodman, so whoever the BBC chose had a very low bar to jump to go ahead in the satisfaction stakes. Sadly Lee McKenzie didn’t make it on today’s performance. Two questions asked, neither of any use. First, she interviewed Nakajima after his shunt and asked “What happened? Was it the kerb?” in which the embarrassed Japanese driver found much relief from admitting he over-gassed it when his wheel ran over the kerb. Second silly thing she did was in the post race interview with Lewis Hamilton when he asked her “Did you hear what happened on the Radio?” to which she answered a rather pathetic “Yes” because the viewers had not heard what happened on the Radio. She may have heard, but it seems more likely that she just blurted out her one word answer without thinking. She needs to learn about not putting words into the mouths of people she is interviewing – and how to get info from people, not let them keep it to themselves! A course in “What is an Open Question?” would do her a power of good.

In more general terms, what happened to all those promised hours of extra TV coverage the BBC promised? They must have been comparing themselves to what they did last time, rather than to last year’s ITV-F1 coverage. For a start, there was too little chat after the race, and practically no post-race analysis. Why is it that in football and rugby we get large chunks of analysis and computer graphics, yet the BBC can only manage a few minutes? They are a long way behind the ITV standard here. Heck, they didn’t even interview anyone from Ferrari! And there were no team boss interviews during the race.

The beginning of the program was rather boring too. That intro video went on for far too long. Anyone not into F1 would not have been more pulverised than mesmerised and far more likely to channel hop as a result. The following race build up lacked the interest of the previous ITV affairs which got the balance just right. I felt quite patronised to be honest, as if I had never seen a F1 race before. Dumbing down a highly technical sport such as F1 will never be successful.

Picking David Coulthard was a good idea, he certainly has a lot of current knowledge and puts it across in a good way: all that McLaren PR training was obviously learned well. Unfortunately, pairing him with Eddie Jordan just doesn’t work at all, in my opinion. They both have big egos, and both fought for air time against each other, with Eddie usurping the rather young Jake Humphrey and asking his own questions of himself rather than following the supposed lead man’s lead. Perhaps they could have each of them interviewing different people in separate locations? They both have interesting ideas, although Eddie Jordan was a bit too crawly with Richard Branson if you ask me; ingrained money-chasing team owner habits clearly die hard!

A lot of the errors can easily be put right, much of what happened in Oz can be put down to first-time nerves, but they’d better sort themselves out sharpish if they want to approach the levels that ITV had before the contract passed to the BBC.

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3 comments on “BBC F1 TV coverage – Australia

  1. Did you press the Red button on BBC interactive for the extras?

  2. We get the signal via satellite and the red button doesn’t work. Reliance on the red button is no excuse for shoddy production on the part of the BBC though – so far they are a League below what ITV did (and there was much to be critical of there, too…)

  3. Red button coverage was good, a BBC interactive site for UK licence fee payers only no doubt!

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