Kirch Searching For Peace
April 5, 2001 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Racing industry sources also indicate that Kirch offered the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA) veto rights in any major decision to move broadcasts of the sport away from free TV.
The media companies took effective control of the commercial and telecast rights to the sport when they upped their stake in Formula One broadcast group SLEC from 50 percent to 75 percent at the end of February. The move included the purchase of a 25 percent stake in SLEC for $987.5 million from motor racing mogul Bernie Ecclestone.
The ACEA has been trying for months to block a bid by Kirch and EM.TV to gain a 35 percent hold on the rights to broadcast Formula One races, which they fear will be shifted to pay-per-view. Kirch, Ecclestone and EM.TV deny the accusations and insist the races will stay on free TV.
"I have been assured that my policy of securing worldwide extensive, live, free over-the-air TV coverage remains unchanged and that races will only be allocated into countries which will be in the best interest of the teams, manufacturers and sponsors," Ecclestone said. "From my point of view, this was a necessary precondition for taking on the position for a further five years."
In a revolutionary announcement that may rock the motorsports world, Europe’s major car manufacturers plan to launch a racing series that will rival Formula One.
The new series comes on the heels of a recent controversy surrounding the premier auto racing circuit’s television contract, and the manufacturers' desire to have a piece of the earnings.
ACEA's members include Fiat, Ford, BMW AG, Renault and DaimlerChrylser, all of which have interests in Formula One racing teams.
"The constructors are the protagonists in Formula 1, they provide the raw material for the sporting event and the spectacle," said Paolo Cantarella, chairman of both the ACEA and Fiat. "And so they would like to be able to run everything more directly, with greater overall guaranties. We want Formula One, together with its entire heritage, to continue with order, technological development, clarity of rules and maximum visibility. As you can see, the guarantees also involve the general public."
Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation, said he would not block the new series.
"If they do start a series, providing their cars are safe, we would sanction it in the same way as we would sanction any other series," Mosley said. "There would be no reason to stop it."
Although a specific launch date was not announced, it is likely the new series would not take the green flag until the end of 2007, which is when the Concorde agreement expires. That agreement involves all the teams and the governing body of Formula One and controls the administration of the sport.
"I imagine it could be done fairly quickly," Mosley said. "But my understanding is that they are not likely to try to achieve anything until after the end of the present Concorde agreement."