A few words about Danny Watts, and why it matters

Before I get into the main subject, I want to make it clear that this piece strays away from motor sport broadcasting to a degree. Whilst this is a broadcasting site, if there are other elements that I wish to talk about, then I will do so.

If you have read the AUTOSPORT or Motorsport.com website in the past few days, you will have learnt that ex-Le Mans driver Danny Watts has announced that he is homosexual. Whilst the reaction was largely positive, a few wondered why motor sport outlets were covering this as news.

A bit of back-story as to why this matters to me: I can relate to Danny’s story, having come out as bisexual last year after debating whether to for a long time. It was a weight off my shoulders, as it probably is his. Coming out should never be trivialised in the media, behind every decision is a long battle that each individual has faced.

People accepted me for who I was, bisexuality is not a taboo subject in my circle of influence. Generally, in society, LGBT matters are becoming less of a taboo subject. Now let us look at the motor sport world. How many LGBT role models are there in the motor sport landscape? As far as I am aware, there is not one LGBT role model for LGBT fans to look-up to. That changed this week. For LGBT motor racing fans, this matters.

Watts’ comments suggest to me that LGBT matters are a taboo subject in motor sport. For a variety of reasons: the media attention, the sponsorship, the countries that motor sport visits that might not be so receptive, even down to the grid girls that gives off a badly out-dated impression and so on. I can understand the predicament that Watts faced during his motor racing career.

With no major LGBT representation in the paddock, it makes it difficult for people, such as Watts, to be themselves in the eye of the media and the paddock, which in turn could affect an individual’s performance. You have to make a stand, and that is exactly what Watts has done. I applaud him for being brave and coming out. The idea of stars not coming out for fear of a negative reaction, or worse still losing their job or drive is frightening.

Is it a news story? In general culture, I would be starting to argue, not really. However, in motor sport, when you consider the taboo nature of LGBT in motor sport and what Watts faced, it absolutely is news. Danny brings into the public spotlight issues that were previously not in the spotlight. With that in mind, the stance that AUTOSPORT and Motorsport.com took in covering Danny Watts’ announcement was spot on.

Congratulations Danny 🙂

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A high-level overview of who owns what in the motor sport media landscape

With many different take overs and acquisitions recently, it is easy to forget who actually owns what. To my surprise, there was not an easy to view diagram which shows all the different connections.

As a result, I thought it was worth putting together a handy diagram to show the relationships:

motor-sport-media-landscape
Link to full sized version here.

The above shows that control lays in the indirect hands of a select few people. Mike Zoi is an unrecognisable name to myself, but appears to be a key figure as the Pitpass link below shows.

The diagram has been sourced using information from the following links:

Formula E secures minority investments from Liberty Global and Discovery Communications (March 2015, Formula E website)
Motorsport Network – About
Discovery Communication agrees to take full control of Eurosport (July 2015, Discovery Communications)
Liberty Media: Who are Formula 1’s new owners? (September 2016, BBC News)
Zak Brown joins McLaren as Executive Director (November 2016, Sky Sports)
Liberty Global to buy Virgin Media for $23.3bn (February 2013, BBC News)
Liberty Global and Discovery Communications Renew Long-Term, Comprehensive Distribution Partnership (August 2016, Discovery Communications)
– Motorsport Network buys Autosport (October 2016, Pitpass.com)
– Chase Carey key to F1 digital media success, says Zak Brown (September 2016, Motorsport.com)
US media firm Liberty Media to buy Formula 1 (September 2016, BBC News)
– Rupert Murdoch’s Fox makes Sky bid five years after hacking scandal (December 2016, The Guardian)

This is a second version, there may be parts that I’ve missed off. I’ve omitted anything without an indirect connection to motor sport. If anyone does find any additional links, please add a link to the source in the comment and I’ll produce further iterations.

Version 2 updated on Sunday 8th January 2017 at 19:00.