As the wrangling over the future of Formula One motor racing continues, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has vowed that races will not move onto pay-TV.

The statement, which backs up similar sentiments made last week by German media giant Kirch Gruppe, is designed to allay the fears of a group of major auto companies who have threatened to set up a rival championship [WAMN: 05-Apr-01; 06-Apr-01].

“I have been assured that my policy of securing worldwide extensive live free-over-the-air TV coverage remains unchanged,” stated Ecclestone, who added that he intends to remain at the head of F1 for another five years.

The car manufacturers fear that Kirch, which now holds a 75% stake in broadcast rights-holding foundation SLEC, will move television coverage onto pay-TV, reducing the audience and marketing potential.

Warned Ecclestone: “It has taken me 30 years to build up Formula One into what it is today and it could take just six months to destroy it.”

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)