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GP Week : Issue 71
WRC INSIGHT >> The marginalisation of the media BEHIND the scenes it seems strange things are happening in our media world. Sensitive situations need sensitive handling, but a belief that the old systems have to be the best solution might itself be an outdated concept if all the indications coming out of the ISC are real. Maybe our time has come, and we in the traditional media world should accept that things will never be the same. Maybe independence and reality are yesterday's principles. In the world of rallying, there has never been a greater need for strong and radical leadership but as in any battle, there will be casualties. The old fashioned media seems to be one of them. It does not take intelligence to realise that the traditional media world has been in turmoil round the world from the day that computers arrived. For us there was one extra problem -- it took the FIA some time before the digital age became acceptable, while the underlying disruption to the media world was now in full force. Why pay journalists for stories when information is free on the internet? Why bother to employ photographers at all? Then came other pressures on our world. The global recession hit the motor industry hard. Teams disappeared and with them their advertising budgets. So why cover a sport when the sporting industry does not support its media? Step by step the media world stopped covering rallying. At the beginning of the 2009 season the FIA appointed a global Promoter, the existing rights holder ISC. The media waited to see if they would bring back happier days, or whether to strike out into a different direction. ISC's TV background made it obvious that restoration of widespread TV coverage would be its first priority, but things started to go wrong in the rally media world. The media ISC became an opportunity to project the news of ISC's own activities, rather than a way to help re- establish the system of telling the world about the sport itself. Traditional media was being shunted out of the door. By the end of this past season, some really worrying ideas were emerging. Do they truly believe, for example, that iconic rallies deserve to be kept permanently in the series? The latest quote from the ISC suggests that the sport must now try to make the Alsace Rally "iconic" instead of the Tour de Corse. When asked whether the ISC was calling the shots in recommending which rallies should be in the championship or whether this was the job of national federations, there was no reply. How does the ISC think the world's media works? Do they really believe that propaganda inevitably rules? ISC already supplies copyright-free images for media purposes from world championship rallies, but takes no account of the fact tthat magazines are not wanting to just save money on photo rights -- they want paying for covering the sport in the first place! Then came suggestions that the ISC should also supply reports of events directly to magazines. They asked journalists for advice. Should these be in English or the magazine's own language? Hold on! We have already passed the year '1984'. People these days are not asked what flavour suicide pill they wish to swallow! In the middle of all this are the journalists themselves, wondering what lies ahead, if anything. All they can see are dangerous times. The sport is now so fragile that the ISC could kill the sport altogether unless the foundations are kept intact. The sport is not centred around the world championship alone. The WRC is only the icing on the cake. Even the most attractive decoration on a cake does not stop the cake beneath from collapsing. And if that happens the rally media will be lying at the bottom of the rubble. Editor's Note: Actually the World Championship in 1984 wasn't such a bad year in rallying. 12 rallies, 6 different winning drivers, four different winning makes of car, and the Stig was World Champion! Who is really calling the shots in world rallying ... and is the independent media being squeezed out? MARTIN HOLMES evaluates significantly confusing times in the rallying media MARTIN HOLMES Rallies Editor opinion 41