July .01 – Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) chairman Martin Whitmarsh thinks that if the teams fix together they can control the upcoming direction of F1 for the good of the sport. Rumor about a possible takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has been ongoing, and freshly there have been doubts over the BBC’s future coverage. Reacting to a question about free-to-air television in the FOTA Fans’ Forum held at the McLaren Technology Centre, Whitmarsh said that the association did not want the sport to be broadcast on pay-television.
“All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air,” Whitmarsh said. “I think there will be parts of the market where maybe there’s some differentiated service offered. If you think about the fundamental business model of a Formula One team we are about creating brand differentiation, brand exposure; all of these names that we have on our shirts today and we have on our cars require us to have a large audience and historically in order to do that you had to be on free-to-air. Our current contract requires that it remains on free-to-air and the teams, now that we operate more effectively together through FOTA – then clearly we’re going to safeguard our interests and the interests of the fans in this regard.”
Martin Whitmarsh also said that the FOTA was aware of News Corp’s interest in purchasing Formula One, but said that the teams had the power to work together to ensure the sport heads in the direction they want.
“I know that there’s speculation of News Corp’s interest, and let’s be clear, the teams are working together; this sport isn’t going anywhere without the teams. So if we remain together – which we try hard to do – we overcome our competitive instincts on occasions, but if we do then we can control the direction of this sport, and we’re not trying to do so for any other reason than the best interests of the sport and consequently the best interests of the fans.”
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