The British GP was the third of four races this season broadcast on Fox television in the US, the first of which was a marathon Canadian Grand Prix, and at over four hours, the longest ever. During that race, I was able to follow from a number of different people tweeting during the red flags that FOX did not break programming from the race, showing the entire four hours. This was definitely an improvement from earlier years when FOX would publish an F1 race in their schedule, and then abandon fans with local baseball game coverage instead.
Following an amazing race yesterday, Formula 1 fans in the US were happy to see the start of what should have been a compelling set of interviews from race winner Alonso as well as from the 2nd and 3rd place finishers Vettel and Webber.
While fans heard from the winner, it was Webber and Vettel many would have liked to hear a few words from, but FOX ended the broadcast before we could ever hear from them.
With Alonso’s win clocking in at just under 1.5 hours, it seems natural that there would have been plenty of time in the shadow of the four hour Canadian Grand Prix to show the two Red Bull teammates interviews, of particular interest to Formula 1 fans after hearing their team principal’s radio call to Webber in the closing laps to maintain his gap to second place finisher Vettel.
Unlike yesterday’s Red Bull team orders broadcast over the world for race fans to hear, television contracts are not matters of public record. Certainly in this weekend’s race, whatever event FOX was obligated to show as part of their F1 broadcast on Sunday clearly hadn’t ended in American Formula 1 fans’ minds until all three podium finishers had been shown to give their account of the race events during those interviews.
Events like this are not uncommon, and in 2005, UK broadcaster ITV was called out by race viewers on an advertising break during the climactic moments of the San Marino Grand Prix, documented here on page 6 of the Office of Communications (OFCOM)website.
OFCOM’s rules for recognition of natural breaks during sport broadcasts include the following:
- Breaks may be taken during intermissions of the particular sport being televised eg, half time, between races, between innings, etc.
- In live coverage of long continuous events breaks may be taken at points where the focus of coverage shifts from one point to another of the event eg, after a resume of the current placings in a race and before refocusing on a particular section of the race. Breaks may also be taken adjacent to cut-away discussion or background film insert sequences.
- Where edited recorded sport programmes are shown, break points should be selected to avoid creating the impression that some part of the event eg, a round in a boxing match has been omitted to accommodate advertising.
Sounds basic enough – and yesterday’s race had been shown in full for the most part – but as Formula 1 fans in the US, what do we feel is a fair broadcast, and when do we feel the event is over? Is it after the checkered flag drops and the winner crosses the finish line, or is it after the driver interviews?
In a sport dominated by technology, isn’t it still still about the human drama that makes Formula 1 so compelling?