News and views on motorsports

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

F1 Media and The Sport

An editorial on PlanetF1 had this to say:

"Now your full-time professional news journalist is going to ask a lot harder, more searching questions than the F1 media pack who are continually fearful of losing their FIA pass, their regular seat in the media centre and their place in the “claret club”."

I have it on good authority that this statement is entirely true. And you thought they only control the press in crony economies? Let's consider some facts.

To get an FIA pit pass you need to be an accredited member of the press corp. You need to apply to the FIA submitting your name, photo and publication details. Should you produce an FIA pit pass during a Formula 1 event, you may enter the paddock area and have close access to the teams. This does not mean that you are allowed to write a race report. To be able to do that, you need to pay the FIA/FOM (I can't remember which one) for the "right" to produce your own race reports. Otherwise, you pick up a copy of the official race results plus the press releases from the teams and you can stick that in your publication. If I'm not mistaken, the same applies for pictures.

Ever wonder why a lot of race reports in a lot of publications all look the same? The rights to report on a race carries with it a huge cost, that of course is paid to Bernie. Now, these rights as I have mentioned are really privileges because the FIA/FOM have the right to rescind such privileges, leaving the journalist and his / her journal with bugger all.

Publications such as F1 Racing, have great access to drivers, teams and the establishment. Lately, I've noticed that they take great care not to offend any of these parties. After all, some choice words, harsh or otherwise, may lead to any one of those parties never ever speaking to them again. That would be bad for the publication's economic health. Write a scathing report about Bernie and Max for instance, you can probably expect your pitpass to be taken away. Especially if you're a small publication or are an up and coming.

Despite all this, some publications like F1 Racing continue to be an excellent source of information, packed with stuff you'd be hard pressed to find in a lot of other magazines and in newspapers. It being affiliated with one of the oldest motorsport journals in the world, Autosport, means that they can put the players under scrutiny more than the other journals can.

And yet I think, the fans does deserve to know more about the inside stuff. After all, what goes on in there inevitably spills on to the track and can determine whether we're in for a great season or if we're better off doing better things with our time. There has to be some balance between public opinion and the sport's establishment (the FIA / FOM / teams). After all, its the fans who pay to watch the sport and sponsors are there to get their attention. So, I believe the fans should have a say on what they want to see.

The fans cannot form an opinion, unless all the facts are made public and counterpoints to the views of the establishment are made known. However, these facts are not fully made known and the counterpoints and comments on the establishment are supressed.

In the larger scheme of things, one must remember that Formula 1 as a sport and as a whole economic entity encompasses a lot of stakeholders the teams, the governing body, sponsors, circuit owners and these days, governments and therefore taxpayers. A lot of cash sloshes in and around the whole circus. Taxpayers for instance, ought to know what their tax money is being put to us for. Are these being put to good use or is the money being used to feed the pockets of the greedy few. Hard questions need to be asked by the public and the media, even the F1 media.

Sponsors also should have an interest to know more behind the scenes. Their sponsorship dollars and euros are at stake. Its one thing to hear a marketing presentation from the establishment, its another hearing a counterpoint from a independent party.

Bernie and Max I suppose still live in that era, where the establishment judged what is good for everyone. In this day and age of information especially, they realise the need to control access to information, for them to maintain the status quo. Their status quo that is. This leads to corruption as we can see in the sport today and inevitably this short changes the fans.

Whether you are a Ferrari fan or not, you can't help but feel that gone are the good old days, when there was less greed, better action on the track and the fans had a great time. A good, fair and unabashed media, can help to ensure the continuation of those good times. That the sport has degraded to the level that it has, inevitably means a failure of the F1 media corp.

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