F1 must not race behind pay-wall - Virgin's Lowdon

By on Thursday, April 28, 2011

Apr.28 (GMM) F1 must remain on free-to-air television, Virgin sporting director Graeme Lowdon insists.

With News Corporation looking into buying the sport's commercial rights, Bernie Ecclestone said he is sceptical because it might make negotiations with other broadcasters difficult.

Another potential issue is News mogul Rupert Murdoch's famously negative attitude to free media content, with some commentators fearing formula one might disappear behind a pay-wall.

"If you remove the majority of the public, it removes a lot of the spirit of what F1 is about, as well as the ability for the teams to stand on our own two feet without reliance on the commercial rights holder," Lowdon told the BBC.

"F1 is way bigger than pay-per-view and deserves its place on the global stage with the viewing figures it gets," he added.

It has also been suggested that Murdoch may want to remove Ecclestone as chief executive in the event of a takeover, but astute observer Sir Jackie Stewart is not so sure.

"Bernie knows Rupert Murdoch," the Scottish former triple world champion told the Telegraph. "If they (News) take over they may turn around and say 'why try to fix a wheel if it's not broken?'

"After all F1 has never been more popular than it is now, which considering the economy is pretty impressive whichever way you look at it," he added.

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