JUNE 28, 1999
Bernie back at work
BERNIE ECCLESTONE was back at work on the Friday before the French Grand Prix following his heart bypass operation. The Formula 1 boss left the hospital soon after the operation and has been recuperating ever since. He quickly waded into action again in the dispute which has been brewing over the TV coverage of the sport.
The TV companies which bought the rights to broadcast F1 races free-over-air are complaining that Ecclestone is favoring the pay-per-view companies which are having difficulty selling the service to subscribers. One of the complaints has been that the free-over-air TV feed includes virtually no onboard camera footage while the pay-per-view coverage features large amounts. Ecclestone countered complaints by suggesting that if TV companies want more in-car footage they should be willing to pay for it. This did not go down well.
For whatever reason Ecclestone refused to allow Britain's ITV to broadcast its usual coverage of qualifying from the FrenchÊGrand Prix. It seems that although ITV has been allowed to broadcast qualifying sessions, it does not actually have the right to do so and so Ecclestone is applying pressure in the run-up to the British GP - ITV's biggest event of the F1 season. There is believed to be additional pressure on ITV from its advertisers, who provide considerable money in exchange for advertising in the popular GP broadcasts.
ITV may not wish to be forced into submission by Ecclestone but at the same time it knows that failure to broadcast qualifying from the British GP will alienate F1 racing fans.