News round-up: Harris to hang up his microphone; F1 heading back to FTA in France

In the news round-up, fans of MotoGP will hear a slightly different tone to broadcasting from 2018 onwards, whilst Formula 1 is making a return to free-to-air television in a key territory.

Formula 1 returning to free-to-air television in France
The return of the French Grand Prix in 2018 is not the only good news for Formula 1 fans in France. Earlier this month, it emerged that the sport would also be returning to free-to-air television, in the first major deal signed by the F1 Group under Liberty Media’s ownership.

For the past few years, Formula 1 has stagnated in France with the sport hidden behind a pay-wall, exclusively on Canal+. Now, Liberty have signed a deal with free-to-air broadcaster TF1 for three years from 2018. TF1 will air four Grand Prix live, including Monaco and the home race at Paul Ricard, with all other rounds covered in highlights form.

Some outlets interpreted the deal as a new direction for Formula 1. Not quite. Article L333-9 of the French Sporting Code states that “sporting events of major importance shall be retransmitted under the conditions laid down in Articles 20-2 and 20-3 of Law No 86-1067 of 30 September 1986 on freedom of communication.”

And Article 20-2, referenced above, explicitly says “Events of major importance can not be retransmitted exclusively in a way that deprives a significant portion of the public of the possibility of following them live or delayed on a free-to-air television service.” In other words, there was an obligation for the F1 Group under French law to offer the French Grand Prix to a free-to-air broadcaster, it was not by choice.

The other three races and the remaining highlights were by choice, although Liberty might have been in a weaker position here if TF1, or any other broadcaster, were unwilling to play the French Grand Prix without any other races alongside it. Either way, the narrative painted by the mainstream media has missed a significant fact.

However, the deal signed by the F1 Group and TF1 does align with quotes from F1’s Managing Director for Commercial Operations, Sean Bratches earlier this year, who suggested a 30-70 relationship where free-to-air and pay-TV were concerned.

Harris to retire from MotoGP duties at end of the season
The big broadcasting news from the Aragon MotoGP weekend is that their World Feed commentator Nick Harris will retire at the end of the year. Harris has been in and out of paddocks, pit lanes and various other fora for 36 years. The paddock came together on the Thursday prior to Aragon to celebrate Harris’ career at the Alpinestars motor home.

I have not spoken to Harris during my stints in the MotoGP paddock, however Harris seems respected and liked by just about anyone you speak to within the paddock. 36 years is an astounding career, I imagine he has many stories to tell post retirement, whatever the future may hold for him!

Harris currently commentates on MotoGP alongside Matt Birt and Dylan Gray in pit lane, with Steve Day leading on Moto2 and Moto3. I imagine Day will lead on MotoGP commentary as well from 2018, unless Dorna bring in someone from the outside to take on Harris’ duties.

Carrasco’s win generates headlines
Elsewhere on the motor cycling front, Ana Carrasco helped generate significant headlines for the Supersport 300 Championship, a feeder series to the Superbikes World Championship. Last weekend’s Supersport 300 race at Portimao saw Carrasco’s maiden victory at world motorcycle level, the first woman to achieve that feat.

Outlets in the United Kingdom and abroad reported on Carrasco’s victory. In the UK, The Guardian and the BBC reported Carrasco’s achievement, whilst aboard, outlets such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone covered her achievement.

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