Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Can't we all just get along?

One thing my brethren and sistren in the television business need to understand (at least better than they apparently do) is that the broadcast rights fees their networks pay don’t “buy” them a bit more right to be at the track than any other reporter.

Over the all-star weekend, I stated in this blog that the “TV pestilence” was spreading at an alarming rate at NASCAR tracks.

According to dictionary.com, “pestilence” means “a pernicious, evil influence or agent” or “something that is considered harmful, destructive or evil.” Evil might be just a tick strong, but otherwise that definition sounds about right.

The television compound continues to gobble up more room week after week. At Darlington they actually blocked off one road outside the track and another one inside the track to “accommodate the TV partners.” At Charlotte, what used to be the media’s press box parking lot has now been completely swallowed up by TV trucks and their annoying offspring, golf carts.

“You know how you get a good parking spot at the track?” one TV person told me after hearing me gripe. “Pay $4 billion for the right to be there. How much does the Observer pay for you to be at the track?”

That’s typical.

It’s also wrong-headed.

Television networks are invited to bid for NASCAR broadcast rights. The networks elect to do so because those rights grant them the opportunity to produce programming to air over said network. In return, the networks also have the right to sell advertising on the broadcasts. They also can use the NASCAR programming to promote other shows on the network, hoping to increase viewership through those promotional opportunities.

If a network didn’t think it could get more out of covering NASCAR than it is putting into it, why would it bid on the rights? Television rights fees are an opportunity to MAKE money, not an excuse to SPEND it.

It certainly costs a lot for networks to produce the programming, to hire its announcers and to effectively promote that programming, but if the network doesn’t come close enough to turning a profit or at least breaking even and accepting that overall having NASCAR is helping the network, then they’re not very good at the business they’re in.

Now, every television commentator and reporter who comes to the track is issued a media credential. That credential gives them access to the garage area and pit lane and other media areas around the track.

Guess what? My credential gives me the exact same access. NASCAR credentials media to “cover” the sport, and that’s what we’re all there to do. The rights fees don’t give anybody who works for Fox or TNT or ESPN one whit more of a right to be there than I have, just like my credential doesn’t give me any more right to be there than anybody else with the same “annual” credential or one-race passes.

I know most fans don’t care about our little intramural squabbles, but it bugs me when people tell me there in a different class than I am when they’re absolutely not.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutly right on this one David. Without sounding patronizing, these talking heads would never take the time to respond to their viewers or listeners the way that you and a few choice others in your "second class" media do on a daily basis. I have noticed this same eletest attitude and several different venues. You have the right to blow off some steam on this one.

okla21fan said...

How often is a sport judged for it's success or failure based on TeVee ratings?

Print media for the past 30 or so years in 'main stream' sports have felt slighted. Like I commented on your previous blog, one knows that sport is doing well, when the print media complain about the broadcast media getting all the perks that were once reserved for the printed press.

Even in the NFL, MLB and the NBA, the 'beat writer' for a team used to be the 'voice' of the team and with the emergence of the 'power of the TeVee', that has given way to 'MTV like' antics of the ESPN's of the world.

I don't see that changing anytime soon. (along with the TeVee media's 'arrogance')

But this is something that comes from transforming a 'regional' sport to a national or even international sport. You will get used to it David.

Unknown said...

Wow...I can't believe you've wasted two complete columns on this ridiculous diatribe. Midway through an extremely controversial season, with an endless amount of possible stories to investigate and you waste your readers' time with 'media covering media' whining. You've clearly lost all respect for your readers to present this.

Complaining about television is like shouting at the rain. It's an irrelevant waste of effort. Oh how I wish you'd spend that same effort using your access to the sport to delve into issues and teams that get no coverage. But that would actually justify the place of print media in the sport...and we couldnt have that happen now could we?

Anonymous said...

David-Even tho I won't join this silly bloggy thing-I am Angel from RPM! I hear Claire on 144 XM say that she has to give way to the TV reporters...radio & newspapers come in second or third. I kinda understand that, but when ESPN has done such a TERRIBLE job of reporting on their channel, they should just be ashamed of being at the race track! btw, Sam is an idiot, imo.

Unknown said...

Sam, I've written thousands of words on issues and topics in racing in recent weeks. These two blogs have been just a quick aside. That's what blogs are all about.

Anonymous said...

So, that's where all the damn golf carts came from. I have been to 3 races @ California, Phoenix and Darlington. At all three races I got so tired of dodging the golf carts. Golf carts should be used for hauling items around, not for people too lazy to walk.

Anonymous said...

I was at the All Star Race ready to go with my "pit pass". Nobody told us that I wouldn't be allowed inside the garage area and I am not the only one upset about this. While standing at the fence, trying to get that one pic of a car or driver or anybody, one guy on the indside, walks up to the fence, hands off his pass to a friend and this guys gets in. Why can't the real, true fans get in while some banker who has never watched a race bring his girlfriend who can't stand being out in the heat and its messing up her hair get in????