Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Manipulating the media // Martin Brundle takes on the FIA when it comes to press passes and more

Published by Mr. C

Martin Brundle has stepped up to the plate and showed he’s not willing to sit quietly while the FIA take yet more liberties as motorsport’s governing body.

Following on from the FIA’s plans to begin libel action against The Sunday Times, Martin responded in his column with this declaration:

I’m tired of what I perceive as the “spin” and tactics of the FIA press office, as are many other journalists.

- Martin Brundle

It’s been rumoured for a while that accredited F1 writers have felt unable to voice their opinions on key decisions, for fear that their paddock passes (and by association, their livelihoods) will be revoked or denied. This issue stems from the fact that the federation have control over who qualifies for passes and who doesn’t. You can read the official accreditation guidelines on their web site, but what the guidelines won’t tell you is who gets the final say on approvals.

Common sense suggests that in the interest of democracy, the process of allocating such passes should be handled by an autonomous body, one without any vested interests or axes to grind.

Martin Brundle (copyright sidepodcast.com)

Going back to Martin’s column, one further quote that really concerned me was this nugget of information (emphasis mine):

I expect my accreditation pass for next year will be hindered in some way to make my coverage of F1 more difficult and to punish me. Or they will write to ITV again to say that my commentary is not up to standard.

- Martin Brundle

For me, that line is the most revealing part of the article because it hints that the FIA’s desire to control and filter the way F1 is reported goes far beyond this simple lawsuit. Suggestions that the motorsport federation directly contact media outlets to deride their staff is bloody frightening.

For years we’ve assumed that ITV commentator James Allen managed to survive in his position because he’s the perfect foil to calm unhappy housewives when another minor-crisis-soap-opera gets delayed due to “those noisy racing cars”. It had never crossed our minds that the sports governing body may actually be encouraging ITV to keep the guy, because he poses no threat, has no opinion and offers no criticism. He is a safe pair of hands to paper over the political shenanigans and underhand tactics the world need not see.

Let me ask any ITV viewers out there, when was the last time that you thought Martin Brundle’s commentary was not up to standard? Think about it for a bit, because in a year that has been dominated by British media obsessing over Hamilton’s debut, Martin has for me remained the only person worth listening to on a Sunday afternoon. The only voice of reason in a sea of overbearing and suffocating obsession.

Martin Brundle (copyright sidepodcast.com)

Earlier this year Sidepodcast was afforded the opportunity of Martin’s company at the GPLive event, where we were treated to almost an hours worth of racing anecdotes, knowledge and insight. If you have any doubt about the commitment that this man has to Formula 1, and the quality of his journalism then please listen to him and watch him in action. I defy anyone to question that man’s ability.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns the Times of London, who, let’s not forget, are now the world’s largest media organisation. They, more than anyone, are used to doing battle with rogue states and authoritarian dictators who are keen to restrict democracy by manipulating the media to push their own propaganda. Some two-bit motorsport federation will be no problem for Newscorp.

I do however think it will be an issue for ITV.

The British broadcaster have, on more than one occasion, shown themselves to have the backbone of an anaconda. They will likely freak at the idea of employing a potentially libellous commentator and we will all suffer as a result.

The ‘FIA sues newspaper’ story isn’t just about free speech, it’s not even about exercising media control any more. It is about a supposedly neutral organisation actively trying to manipulate how the sport over which they preside gets covered by the media.

That it got this far is troublesome. That it should continue is unthinkable.