Ireland gets a new F1 broadcaster

The Republic of Ireland is to get a new broadcaster for the Grands Prix with the Setanta Sports channel taking over F1 next year from state-owned RTE. But it is not likely to make much of a difference because it is only a few months since RTE's head of sport Niall Cogley moved to Setanta and so Cogley will probably chase the same commentary team as he had at RTE. The deal is for three years and Setanta says that it will cover the action on Saturday and Sunday, despite the fact that interest in F1 in Ireland has been dropping recently because of the lack of success of Jordan Grand Prix. If Jordan is sold and Eddie Jordan drop out of F1, the numbers are liable to drop again unless an Irish driver can be found. Richard Lyons is out (although he comes from Ulster and is therefore British) but he needs to find money if he is going to get a chance in F1.

Setanta Sports provides a pay-per-view channel which is available in Britain. This is interesting as this could be a huge bonus to the Irish coverage if current tobacco problems in Britain do not go away. The British government is bringing in a total ban on tobacco advertising in F1 at the end of July 2005 and the only real option if the ban is not changed is for the teams to either drop their tobacco sponsorship at every event (because it will be illegal to broadcast pictures with tobacco advertising to anywhere in Britain) or shut down the British coverage of F1. Bernie Ecclestone says that he will do that if the British do not want F1 coverage, which would leave British fans with no chance to see F1. This would be a boom for BBC Radio 5 which covers the sport but the situation regarding pay-per-view coverage is rather different to normal advertising and because people pay and know what thy are going to see, there is an argument that they are consenting to watch tobacco advertising. In this way, passionate F1 fans could in theory watch Irish F1 coverage in Britain, even if the ITV coverage was stopped.

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