JUNE 28, 2005
Government keeps F1 off the screens in India
There may be huge interest in Formula 1 in India at the moment but that does not mean that the Indians are going to see the racing on television, despite the fact that Narain Karthikeyan is the first Indian to be racing in Grands Prix. India is a hugely attractive TV market for Formula 1 with around 360m viewers for Doordarshan, the national TV network. In 2003 Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone did Doordarshan a favour and agreed a free deal to televise all the races however this was in contravention of the 2001 Tobacco Bill in India and in May last year Doordarshan dropped the F1 coverage because of tobacco advertising. Ecclestone has apparently been offering the TV company money to cover the races but the government is refusing to allow any tobacco advertising, with the health ministry leading the way. The only way that fans in India can watch F1 at the moment is on a private sports channel.
Things may improve at the end of July when European and British legislation come in which will make it virtually impossible for teams to run any tobacco branding. The loss of tobacco sponsorship may in the long-term be a major gain for the sport.