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Channel 4 to take over BBC F1 contract

The BBC is set to give its part of the F1 TV contract to rival broadcaster Channel 4 in a bid to cut costs

The BBC is set to give its part of the Formula One TV contract to rival broadcaster Channel 4 in a bid to cut costs.

The deal, which runs until the end of 2018, is a joint contract between the BBC and Sky Sports.

Cutting the deal three years short, the BBC is expected to save itself millions, despite being forced to pay compensation to Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula One Group, for breaking their contract.

The BBC has a £150 million gap in its finances, and BBC Sport was asked to deliver £35 million of that total.

“The current financial position of the BBC means some tough and unwanted choices have to be made,” said Barbara Slater, BBC director of sport. “Any decision to have to stop broadcasting a particular sport or sporting event is hugely disappointing and taken reluctantly. There are no easy solutions; all of the options available would be unpopular with audiences.”

It is the third time in recent years that the BBC has cut short its sporting contracts, after giving up the final two years of its exclusive deal to show the Six Nations rugby – opting for a shared arrangement with ITV – as well as dropping its coverage of The Open golf championship a year early.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said: “I am sorry the BBC could not comply with their contract. But I am happy we now have a broadcaster that can broadcast Formula One events without commercial intervals during the race.

“I am confident Channel 4 will achieve not only how the BBC carried out the broadcast in the past, but also with a new approach as the world and Formula One have moved on.”

Channel 4 will pick up ten live races that the BBC would have broadcast, and provide highlights of the rest. Sky’s deal is likely to remain unaffected.