In 1997, a new era for Formula One began as ITV paid £60m to prise the TV rights from the BBC in a four-year deal. A lot has changed in the UK TV coverage of the sport over the last 20 years, not to mention the current deal with Sky and Channel 4 which ends next season before Sky have exclusive coverage from 2019.
This brings me onto an interesting subject with Channel 4’s F1 coverage and that is Steve Jones. Since being the lead presenter for C4F1 when they stepped in from the BBC in 2016, its fair to say that the Welshman has his fair share of the F1 audience who love him and loathe him. I for one think he has brought new life into F1 broadcasting in the UK and here’s why.
Whenever a new broadcaster takes over television rights of a live sport, there will be an unfamiliar face who will be the anchor. It was no different with Jim Rosenthal when he was anchoring ITV-F1 from 1997-2005 even though he came from a football and boxing background. Rosenthal had his critics when started, but when he settled into the role, the F1 audience warmed to him overtime.
With Steve Jones, he had little time to prepare for being the main anchorman of F1 as C4 obtained the rights when the BBC activated their release clause three years early at the end of 2015. Considering that C4F1 have broadcast F1 for over a season and a half with Whisper Films producing the coverage, Jones has improved in his role through every GP whether if it has been highlights or a live broadcast.
When you consider that he has pundits and personnel such as Mark Webber, David Coulthard, Karun Chandhok, Ben Edwards, Lee McKenzie, Susie Wolff and Eddie Jordan, that is a huge amount of pressure to have with no live TV sport experience. Jones has brought an element of fun to C4F1 with features such as the Red Bull Racing simulator from the 2016 Italian Grand Prix with DC.
Was I sceptical about Steve Jones being the lead presenter for Channel 4’s F1 coverage in early 2016? Yes. Did he prove me wrong that he was the right man for the job alongside DC and EJ? Yes. You have to let presenters grow into the position with time and with Jones, that was no exception to the rule. It was the same for Rosenthal when he presented over 150 F1 Grand Prix for ITV, it’s no different to Jones at C4F1.
In a social media world where you have to impress your audience or you lose their attention, its important to remember that you have to give people time to develop. Channel 4’s F1 coverage has been a breath of fresh air and it would be a huge loss for the public service commercial broadcaster to lose their coverage at the end of the 2018 season. Let’s hope Steve Jones stays around the live sporting arena for years to come.
Picture Credited to WalesOnline.