Tuesday April 3rd, 2001
FIA President Max Mosley said on Monday that the chances of finalising the deal on television rights for Formula One in a near future were slim, and he admitted he was 'slightly pessimistic' about it.
German media groups Kirch and its partner EM.TV increased their stake in SLEC, the company which owns the commercial rights of the sport, to 75 per cent last month, something which caused concern about the possibility that Kirch may decide to turn Formula One into a pay-per-view event.
However, Kirch needs the approval of the sports' governing body, and according to Mosley, the FIA will make sure that the sport remains available in free basis, though he admitted an agreement was still far.
"I'm hopeful, but there's still an awful lot to be done," Mosley told AFP. "It's been going on for eight months so one's got to be slightly pessimistic.
"I would have thought people would find a compromise as it is the most sensible thing to do but it hasn't happened yet.
"I assume that if they (Kirch) come in they would be aware that there must be free-to-air TV," he added. "There can be pay TV on a parallel basis, but our basic condition is free to air for anyone who wants to watch."
Mosley also confirmed that they had set a deadline of April 11 to reach an agreement over the TV rights.
"If the deal is not done by April 11 then other possibilities will be looked at," he said.
As a result of their concern about the possibility of Formula One becoming a pay-per-view event, the carmakers competing in the sport threatened to organise a parallel championship in protest.
However, Kirch is now in talks with the carmakers in order to sell a part of SLEC, of which Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone still holds the remaining 25 per cent. This way, the manufacturers would retain overall control of the rights.
"I think there are a lot of things under discussion, but only the carmakers know exactly what they are discussing," Mosley added.