AUGUST 3, 2011
Grandprix.com has been leaked a copy of the minutes from a Parliamentary Select Committee on F1 Racial Abuse.
Chairman: Gentlemen. Just to inform you that this session is being held in camera.
Mr. E: Camera? Who's got the rights? Who's paying me?
Chairman: No, no, Mr. Ecclestone. I'm saying this is private.
Mr. E: Sorry; got carried away. Lot to be said for going private. F1 should be like that. We're doing what we can.
Chairman: Which leads me to the complaints about your arrangements for F1 TV coverage. I see we also have a representative from the BBC; Mr. Ben Bollock.
BBC: That's Bolloks, actually.
Chairman: No need to be so rude at this stage...
BBC: No, no; it's Ben Bolloks.
Chairman: Beg your pardon. Who else do we have? Representing FOTA, a Mr. Martin Marshwit.
FOTA: Yes, thank you Mr. Chairman. I'd just like to say that this is very positive and..
Chairman: All in good time, Mr. Marshwit. Anyone from Sky?
Mr. E: He's outside, taking an ad break. But he's across this, hacking into your stenographer's email.
Chairman: Let's get straight to the point. Mr. Marshwit, you've gone on record as saying this deal will increase the viewing figures. How so?
FOTA: Mr. Ecclestone told us. He said the figures will probably exceed 10 million.
Mr. E: No, it's 60 million.
Chairman: Good grief! Sixty million viewers?
Mr. E: Dollars! That's what you asked, wasn't it? It's certainly what we asked.
FOTA: I have to say that this is very positive for the teams and...
Chairman: I'm sure it is Mr. Marshwit. But that is precisely the point. One moment you are saying FOTA supports the fans and then, in the words of one of many tweets I've come across, you've, and I quote, 'right royally shafted us and don't give a f...' Sorry, I better not continue, but you get my gist? The fans are unhappy.
Mr. E: Fans? Whatd'ya mean?
Chairman: The people who pay to come to watch your races.
Mr. E: Oh, that lot! Bloody nuisance, clogging up the roads. I see them from my helicopter every race. They're always complaining. I mean, be fair; we keep asking the race promoters for more money so that the gate prices have to go up - and these people still keep coming. I ask you. We do what we can.
Chairman: But, again, have you not hit the nail on the head? The BBC can't continue as before because they can't afford the huge amount of money F1 is asking. Could the teams, in these difficult times, not reduce their costs? Do they really need all this money? Mr. Marshwit, how do you answer that?
FOTA: Well, it's very positive because there's Sky and the BBC covering the races, which has to be very positive news.
Chairman: How do you arrive at that conclusion?
FOTA: Mr. Ecclestone told us we're getting more money, which is very positive and can I just say...
Chairman: Sorry, I'll have to interrupt and ask Mr. Bollock for his view.
Chairman: Yes, I know that is thrust of more than 7500 very angry comments in response to your statement on the BBC website, but how do you suppose the new liaison with Sky will work?
BBC: We will be covering half the races live, Sky will do them all and we'll have highlights. This deal offers the best outcome.
Chairman: For who, exactly? Let me get this straight: you've produced superb coverage of every race; five hours of quality television - Mr. Eddie Jordan notwithstanding - each weekend, raised the bar to new heights and now you're doing half that, people are being asked to pay £600 for the other half - and you're saying this is best outcome?
BBC: Exactly! The BBC has to slash costs thanks to the wretched government cutbacks, and yet we're still doing F1.
Chairman: I appreciate the difficult financial circumstances you find yourself in but is this not a way to save the BBC from having to pay handsomely for breaking its contract early while, at the same time, allowing Mr. Ecclestone to say F1 continues to be 'free-to-air', as enshrined in the Concorde Agreement? Mr. Ecclestone, do you have any comment?
Mr. E: We spoke to these people. The Beeb do a super job. We have a lot of supporters in football. It's good for F1. It's gonna be okay.
Chairman: You're nodding your head vigorously. I fail to see your point.
Mr. E: That is the point. We do what we can.
Chairman: Can I ask the BBC why, if money needs to be saved, £900m is being spent moving staff out of London to somewhere they don't want to go? And, on another curious note, a prime-time slot was given over to the riveting news that there was one year to go until the London Olympics when the technicians and crew needed to broadcast this live show looked as if they outnumbered the puzzled on-lookers in Trafalgar Square?
BBC: Nothing to do with me. All I know is they didn't have to pay F1 a bloody big fee to do it.
Mr. E: We're doing what we can.
FOTA: We thought it was very positive.
Chairman: What was positive?
BBC: Look, I think what we're all trying to say...
Chairman: I understand exactly what you're all trying to say and, frankly Mr. Bollock, it's a bit of a fudge to cover F1 making even more obscene amounts of money.
BBC: It's Bolloks!
Chairman: Precisely. Knew you'd come round to my way of thinking. Meeting closed.
Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.
His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.