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banner Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
F1 commits to terrestrial TV
Start of 2001 San Marino Grand Prix
F1 still faces an internal political struggle
The Formula One world championship will continue to be covered on terrestrial television, the sport's governing body, the FIA, has announced.

The FIA has granted a 100-year extension of F1's commercial rights to a company controlled by German TV groups Kirch and EMTV.

These companies have bought 75% of the company that owns the rights - F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone's Slec organisation. Ecclestone owns the other 25%.

Kirch said Slec had paid $309m (216m) for the 100-year extension.

Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone's stake in F1 has been reduced to 25%

"Slec and Kirch Group have confirmed that the championship will continue to be shown on free-to-air television," the FIA said in a statement after an extraordinary meeting in Paris.

This may go some way to placating the car manufacturers involved in F1.

They have been threatening to launch a breakaway series, because they feared Kirch would try to sell the sport on to pay-TV channels.

The car makers are negotiating a deal to buy shares in Slec, but this is not expected to be concluded for at least a month.

The FIA's decision comes after months of uncertainty about the commercial rights to F1.

Appeasement

Ecclestone had agreed an outline deal to extend Slec's rights last year but the agreement was thrown into question after the change of shareholding at Slec.

The change of ownership had promoted fears that Kirch would restrict the sport to pay television rather than the more widely watched free television, reducing its appeal to the sponsors who help to bankroll it.

Car manufacturers have said they want more say in the way the sport is run and more financial return from their investments.

Kirch is said to have already offered the carmakers a 25% stake in Slec to keep them happy.

Investigation

The FIA noted the latest deal was a further step in the European Commission over its previous concerns.

The Commission took Formula One to task in 1999, criticising the close links between Ecclestone and the FIA.

However, it ended a lengthy investigation after Ecclestone pledged to reduce his role in FIA affairs.

"As the FIA said, this (rights deal) is a step forward for the separation of sport and commercial (activities)," European Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said.

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See also:

08 Apr 01 |  Formula One
Ecclestone offers stake
06 Apr 01 |  Formula One
Mosley calls for united front
05 Apr 01 |  Formula One
Kirch: F1 to remain on free TV
04 Apr 01 |  Formula One
A very careful bluff
04 Apr 01 |  Formula One
F1 chiefs vote for breakaway
14 Apr 01 |  Formula One
Dennis discounts F1 split threat
02 Apr 01 |  Formula One
Mosley: F1 will stay free on TV
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