In a recent edition of his Paddock Diary @DieterRencken mentioned some of the ways in which the F1 media co-operate with each other, even when they could be considered rivals. That prompted the following question from Tristan:
I was surprised to hear you mention recently that you share stories with other language publications or more to the point that there is no conflict in being able to do so. What is the nature of the conflict between English publications? Is it purely from a page-view/reader/subscriber point of view? Or is there any value at all in being able to push narrative?
As an aside how do you feel the relationship is between the media and the current owners/management group of Formula 1? In the past there has been a general air of it being a bit of a ‘boys club’, do you feel this has changed much? From a complete outsiders’ perspective it feels as though there are more independent publications doing YouTube videos and the like that are making their own opportunities to report on F1, whether sanctioned or not.
Tristan, you’ve raised topics that regularly ruffle feathers in the paddock. Here’s my take and let me stress, these are my personal opinions.
Every journalist in the paddock might wish to attend all the media sessions with drivers and team members on a given day. But it’s common for two or more interview opportunities clash. Recent changes to weekend formats including later starting times for sessions cut into interview opportunities, particularly as drivers and team personnel usually have evening commitments. (The mooted three-day race weekend will surely make matters worse.)
This is less of a problem for large media networks who can afford to send many journalists to each race. To provide a full service to our readers we strive to cover all interviews, and the only option is via reciprocal arrangements with non-competitor outlets (i.e. those not publishing in English). Such arrangements also offer cover in the event of travel delays, illness and so on.
There can be synergies within same language groups, such as news/technical outlets, but most outlets aim to be first with important breaking news – that is our philosophy – and thus we do not wish to rely upon direct competitors.
By co-operating with a number of foreign-language sites we all tick all boxes without conflict. The only other alternative would be to leave the F1 media to be dominated by a single outlet and/or F1’s (rather subjective, in my opinion) official website. I know what I’d rather read as a fan – which is, incidentally, why I elected to leave an increasingly dominant network and join this website at the beginning of last year…
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
As for your second question: I assure you I was never part of a ‘boys’ club’, which is why my pass was ‘felt’ more than a few times under previous regimes. As for the current owner of F1’s commercial rights, Liberty Media, it’s too early to judge precisely where the media stands. However I note with interest a growing number of our competitors’ contributors now also having their work published by the official F1 website. Make of that what you wish…
However, we should not ignore that the opening line on Liberty’s website states it: “owns interests in a broad range of media, communications and entertainment businesses” before referring to “tracking stocks”. Hence it is clear that the company wishes to make money out of F1 as an entertainment business through its media companies.
Thus I wonder how long before Liberty views independent F1 news outlets to be in competition with its stated core business, particularly if they reveal uncomfortable truths or are ‘off message’. For an example of the latter, contrast how the same story was covered on the official F1 website and here. We believe our write-up gave readers a much more complete explanation of what was really happening and why, compared to which key details are missing from the officially-sanctioned coverage. This is an example of why we believe it is vital to maintain our independence.
Where Bernie Ecclestone saw the media as ‘free’ PR agents for his product, I am increasingly concerned that Liberty views independent outlets as a threat to both its control of F1, and associated revenues. Indeed, I fear for fans that Liberty’s end game may be the elimination of the independent media. All I’ll say is: Be careful what you accept as ‘fact’…
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Go ad-free for just £1 per month
- Who was the greatest F1 driver of all time?
- Would the FIA strip a team or driver of a title for breaking the budget cap?
- Is F1’s 2021 rules package the best available compromise?
- What was the most glorious period of F1 history?
- Would Kubica’s 2019 return have gone better at another team?