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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Here’s a snapshot of the reaction from some of my international colleagues in the media.

First to Germany, where, true to form, leading tabloid Bild have making mischief with Photoshop again. Last week Hamilton was morphed onto a snail’s body, today he’s got Pinocchio’s nose and is described as the ‘lying world champion’ Ouch!
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Next on to Spain, where El Pais simply has the headline, “Lying for a podium.” They feel that this has been a damaging moment for the world champion, but do not feel that the matter requires any further punishment.
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That said, many in Spain are rubbing their hands with glee. In AS, the strongest of the Spanish daily sports papers, the writer says that McLaren has lost all credibility. In a stinging attack it says that McLaren used to stand for all the best of British sporting values, but since the arrival of Hamilton that has been eroded. It questions how a team with such great resources and allied to such a prestigious brand as Mercedes, could make such stupid mistakes.
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In Italy they are playing with a fairly straight bat. La Gazetta dello Sport, the leading sports daily just reports the facts, as does Corriere dello Sport. “Hamilton risks further sanctions, is the line they take,
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Meanwhile in the UK there is some really tough stuff, particularly in the Daily Mail, where they really go for it,
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Get this; “When the story of Lewis Hamilton’s career is written, it will record how he bankrupted himself in the counting house of reputation for the sake of one single point…. McLaren, the most arrogant team in the paddock, self-deluded in their own righteousness, are contaminated by a culture of cheating.”

I’m supposed to be going to a dinner tonight, hosted by Mercedes boss Norbert Haug and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh for seven or eight UK journalists, including the Mail, Times etc. Could be quite a tense evening….

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F1′s commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone isn’t here in Australia, he’s back in London doing deals.

One which broke cover this weekend was a deal he’s been working on for ages with Universal Music group, the biggest recorded music outfit in the world. They own dozens of the labels you grew up with like Polydor, Decca and A&M.

According to a joint statement the concept is called “F1 Rocks” and it is a series of multi-artist live music events from the Grands Prix. That part isn’t new, after all the Who are playing here tomorrow night and good old Status Quo have been getting repetitive strain injury at Silverstone for years.

What is new is the blending in of ‘stars of movies, sport and fashion’ with the rockers and the racers. The whole thing will be packaged into a digital content stream which fans can enjoy around the world.

The deal makes a lot of sense on both sides. F1 is desperate to get more ‘celebs’ to the races, bizarrely that kind of glamour is thin on the ground. Remember the hoopla when the Beckhams came to Silverstone with Honda, well they want that kind of buzz and energy all the time and this is the latest idea on how to achieve that. TV networks expect to see stars and glamour associated with F1 and it hasn’t really delivered on that in recent years.

And for Universal the attraction is clear. The only way to make money in music these days is live events and this will add a new revenue stream for the artists on Universal’s books.

Its shows how the web is changing F1 and the expectation of what is possible. Bernie has always been very suspicious of the internet, because he thinks it’s really hard to protect his rights in such and unregulated free-for-all. But this deal will, I’m sure, be the first of many as F1 looks to open up new revenue streams and drag its business model into the 21st century.

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Some good news for F1 TV viewers

There was so much information being given out at the recent FOTA press conference in Geneva that the part about improving the TV coverage was largely overlooked by the media.

As it has subsequently turned out the FIA has not adopted the FOTA proposals on rules and cost savings and instead has very much gone it’s own way.

However, according to Autosport, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said yesterday that he will make sure that his TV direction team make use of the enhanced graphics being offered by FOTA to improve the TV coverage. Some of these ideas are really good, such as this one which illustrates the different lines the drivers take.
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Another idea which was put forward by Flavio Briatore’s commercial working group, was to have a pit stop predictor, which uses GPS positioning technology to predict where a car is likely to rejoin. This will take away some of the suspense, but it may equally enhance the excitement in a close race for position.
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Other improvements proposed by FOTA include, highlighting the cars which are fuelled to the finish, a GPS positioning map showing where cars are on track, opening up more car data and opening up all the radio traffic, which will happen this year.

And finally, FOTA suggested pit stop competition be part of the show, with a point awarded to the team with the fastest stop. This would start next year when refuelling is banned, so it would a question of who has the fastest pit stop.
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If you liked that James Bond sequence where he drove the BMW Q had given him using by remote control using his phone, you’ll enjoy this wacky bit of video.

I remember a few years ago F1 engineers were talking about how it was possible for an F1 car to drive itself. Well take a look at this. It’s a Vodafone viral for the Blackberry Storm, but it shows McLaren are getting funkeeeee!

And please, no comments about how it might be faster than the car they’ve got at the moment!

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More on BBC’s new head of F1

Following the news that Niall Sloane, executive producer of F1, has quit the BBC, I saw on the Guardian media website that the BBC has appointed Ben Gallop as head of F1.

I’ve asked around and apparently he comes from the online side of the media business rather than TV and has no F1 background. Mark Wilkin, who is the editor of the F1 programme will report to him. Mark does have a strong F1 background and is also a very experienced producer/director. He held the same role when the BBC last had F1 in 1996.

There seems to be some confusion among people who’ve left comments on the site about how these two roles work, so let me explain.

An executive producer is generally a senior figure who oversees a programme, he has the major say in who is appointed in the presentational roles, argues with the network bosses for more budget and airtime for his show etc. He can often be executive producer on a number of different programmes, as Niall was with his Match of the Day position.

He is often someone who has extensive programme making experience, so knows what it’s like to be at the coal face, but has risen to a senior position where he does not actually put the programme together. He has the authority to tell the editor he wants to see less Lewis Hamilton or more on Ferrari, but often exec producers just leave the editor to get on with it.

As the BBC’s new offering is based as much on the online and interactive stuff as it is on the TV element, appointing someone with extensive online experience makes some sense and it shows which way the BBC thinks the media is going that a non-TV person can take on this role.

Remember that the coverage of the race itself is done by Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM TV operation, a scaled down version of the team who made the digital pay per view service of the early 2000s, which was briefly broadcast on SKY. BBC will just be doing the bit before and after the race and sticking a commentary on the race itself.

Niall will stay on for the first two races of the 2009 formula one season before departing in mid-April. There is currently a vacant role for head of sport at ITV and as they have a lot of football contracts it’s a fair bet that Niall will go for that job.

It’s not ideal to lose the man who put the team together, but it will not disrupt their preparations too much, in my view.

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BBC F1 boss quits

I was sad to see in Charlie Sale’s column in the Daily Mail today that Niall Sloane, the executive producer of the BBC’s F1 coverage has quit. Sloane is a football man, a former player in fact, who took charge of the F1 brief when the BBC won back the rights last March. He spent most of 2008 setting up the presentation team and the coverage schedule, which was announced earlier this week.

According to Sale, Sloane lost out on the job of BBC Head of Sport to his colleague Barbara Slater and is leaving the corporation after 27 years.

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BBC trailer “mash-ups”

What will the BBC use as their theme tune? Well, in case you have been wondering about the trailer that Ben G was referring to in his earlier comment … Here it is: a YouTube mash-up that uses The Chain as inspiration.  There are links to all sorts of would-be BBC intros at the end of the clip, including one with a Cardigans track. And until an official version is formally unveiled, these will have to do.

By the way, keep on voting for your favourite F1 soundtrack in our mini-poll (right). So far it seems that a remix of The Chain remains the most popular option.

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More insight on the BBC F1 plans

Interesting response to the BBC package announced yesterday. Quite a few people think “The Chain” is a retrograde step. Andrew Baker in the Telegraph is positively evangelistic about it, reckons it’s the greatest theme music ever in a proud BBC tradition of theme tunes. I quite liked the tune to Horse of the Year show, but that’s by the by…

Quite a few of you are wondering about the use of archive footage. The standard deal is that you can use anything up to 10 years previous as part of the package. Anything before that and you have to pay extra. BBC may well have negotiated a different deal from that, Bernie does all kinds of individual deals with different broadcasters, but as the Beeb haven’t mentioned archive in any of their press materials, it doesn’t seem that it was a big priority. I know that they were much more keen to get the interactive offering the best it could be.

Anything pre 1981 is pre FOM anyway, so if you can source it, you can show it.

There are some mixed vibes coming from the newspaper men. It’s always odd for journalists to interview other journalists, but The Times has already gone for the new presenter, Jake Humphreys and thinks the public will follow,

“The biggest gamble is Jake Humphrey in the main presenting role. The corporation believes that the former children’s programme presenter is a star in the making, but others are yet to be convinced that he is sufficiently “heavyweight” for the role, ” says Ed Gorman.

Jake is very ambitious, but he is going to be really tested in this role. I wouldn’t want to be presenting a sport I’d never done before, which is hugely complex and changing all the time and also have to keep control of Eddie Jordan. Fair play to Jake if he pulls it off.

The scribes were also taunting Jordan at the launch on Tuesday. A book is running on when the famously foul mouthed Irishman will become the first to get sacked by the BBC. Eddie didn’t offer a date, but found the idea amusing.

On the subject of the coverage being Lewis-centric, check out this comment from
Tom Johnson,
“Of course the coverage should be ‘Hamilton-centric’ and it will be if the BBC want to maintain the ratings boost that ITV enjoyed. Like it or not half the audience is there for Lewis and will soon disappear if he’s not heavily featured – just like Spain for Alonso, Italy for Ferrari and Poland for Kubica – face it guys the world’s chauvinistic and to be frank we have a lot more to be chauvinistic about than Poland does with Kubica. Hamilton’s unprecedented feats in F1 should be cause for rejoicing not churlishness anyway for those that can’t bare a british broadcaster majoring on a british world champion, tough! Try living in Spain Italy Germany Brazil Poland or pretty much anywhere that has a top line driver and get real perspective on what bias is.”

It’s always a mistake to look at the world from your own little bubble and think that is how things are. Hamilton haters are a vocal majority on forums and websites, but you sense that there is a silent mass which far outweighs them among the wider public, people who feel like Tom. Lewis put another 2-3 million on the audience in the last two years and that is why the BBC paid the big dough for the rights. He’ll be front row centre in the coverage.

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Some good news for F1 TV viewers

Yesterday I wrote about some things we will not be seeing on TV, today I’m posting on a couple of things which will be in the show, although I’m not sure about one of them.

Radio conversations between team and driver have been available for a few years, but the team had a button it needed to press to make the channel open to the TV director. Renault were always very good and open about this, even though it used to irritate them that the director kept playing clips of them telling Fisi to push harder. Ferrari and McLaren were useless at opening the line, and would simply open it at the end, after a victory for some stage managed gushing. This season the radios will be open all the time from every team, so you should hear some much more insightful stuff and get a feel for how the big names come across on radio in the heat of battle.

The other thing I’m not so keen on. I’m told that the teams and the FIA are seriously planning to publish the weights of the cars after qualifying. If this is true I think it is mad as it takes away from the suspense of the opening part of the race and might make teams inclined to do more or less the same thing on fuel strategy as each other, which will create more of a procession.

One of the reasons qualifying with fuel has worked was because there was the chance to go short or long and we couldn’t be absolutely sure, because there was always that margin for driver error.

Also it will devalue the pole before the race has even started if say, Kubica has achieved it by running six laps less fuel than Hamilton and Massa. We’ll all stand on the grid saying, “So what?”

I hope that this change does not come about. The new mood of openess in F1 is good, but this is one step too many for me.

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As regulars here will know, I occasionally like to highlight a feedback comment and there’s one here from Rpaco, who clearly has worked in the car/racing industry at some point. His comment in response to my post yesterday about Charlie Whiting’s briefing really made me laugh.

“Well I trust that the new BBC team will keep us informed of the engine number being used by each car. A spreadsheet will be needed to keep track of them all. Though I have a vision of the Lottery commentator, “the voice of the balls” giving the statistics on each number. ‘This engine was last seen as a bonus Friday engine Monaco and Spa. It has covered 1200 miles and 3 hours on the dyno.’

“Let us also hope that Charlie’s KERS training program for the Marshals goes somewhat further than his stated “We shall send them some instructions to read” All marshals are the salt of the earth, largely unsung, without whom this sport could not exist and many posses great knowledge and a deal more experience and common sense than the so called race stewards.

“However not all are great readers, and a more practical training is necessary, a few 10,000 Volt shocks should do it. :-) *Dont touch the ****ing car when the ****ing light is on!”

Actually we could all do with some more information on KERS and engines. It’s often hard to keep tabs on who’s on what engines even when you are in the paddock! And as for KERS, I’m told that there is currently no plan for an on-screen graphic telling the viewer when a driver is hitting his KERS button. I’m sure that Bernie’s FOM TV technical people will get onto this as the season goes on, as it would be indispensable when watching a good dice between two cars.

It rather takes away from the KERS story if the public hasn’t got a clue when and how it is being used. Don’t you think?

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