More television problems

EXECUTIVES of Europe's TV stations are not happy with the increasing restrictions being placed on their crews and reporters in Grand Prix racing. The major companies such as Germany's RTL, France's TF1, Britain's ITV and Italy's RAI are paying around $15m a year for the conventional "terrestrial" TV rights to broadcast F1 coverage.

With Formula 1 Communications beginning to act as the host broadcaster they are worried about the quality of pictures they are receiving, into which they edit segments from their own crews at each race to create their own programs.

They argue that it is in the interest of FOC to produce a low-quality main feed so that frustrated Grand Prix fans will turn to the new pay-per-view digital services which FOC is now producing as well in association with other TV companies such as Germany's DF1, Italy's Telepiu and France's Canal Plus. The biggest player in digital TV is the French organization which is rumored to be paying Ecclestone $60m a year for the digital rights to 60 countries around the world.

There is no doubt that while FOC personnel seem to have unrestricted access in the pitlane during races, the pitlane reporters of the terrestrial stations are being restricted in where they can go.

We hear that after Brazil there are moves afoot for the big terrestrial players to challenge FOC and suggest that the show be improved or they will boycott Grand Prix racing.

This is a serious threat to the sport as until pay-per-view becomes big business - and it may take some years before viewers accept that they have to pay for their sporting coverage - the sport needs the hundreds of millions of TV viewers of the terrestrial stations to keep the F1 sponsors happy.

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