Social media acted as the “central nervous system” of the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa last winter, the Public Order Emergency Commission heard Tuesday as it considered the role of misinformation in the lead up to the invocation of the Emergencies Act.
The policy phase this week follows six weeks of fact-finding hearings into the events that led to that decision, which included testimony about online threats and the role social media played in organizing the protest against COVID-19 public health measures.
Before thousands of trucks started rolling toward Ottawa last January, a loose group of protest organizers communicated mainly over TikTok and Facebook, the commission heard over those weeks of testimony. Many of them had never met in person until the protest began.
“Social media was the central nervous system of the convoy, and exploration of its role crosses numerous domains, such as law, psychology, history, sociology and public policy, to name a few,” Emily Laidlaw, the Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity Law at the University of Calgary, wrote in a report for the commission.
Social media was used to fundraise, connect organizers and spread their message. It was also used to contrast the accounts of traditional media outlets and provide a different view of what was happening on the ground, Dax D’Orazio, a political scientist and post-doctoral fellow with Queen’s University, testified during an expert panel discussion before the commission Tuesday.
“It was a way of creating meaning, finding community and building, eventually, momentum for social and a political movement,” he said.
The inquiry is seeking the expert input to bolster its analysis of whether the government was right to use the Emergencies Act in response to protests that took over downtown Ottawa and halted trade at several border crossings.
The expert testimony will inform Commissioner Paul Rouleau’s recommendations about how to modernize the Emergencies Act and identify other areas for further study. It will also help him and his team study the impact of the purposeful or inadvertent spread of false information during the protest, which was explicitly written into the commission’s mandate.
Experts testified that regulating disinformation is a difficult prospect, especially since it’s not illegal to spread falsehoods.
“It’s lawful but awful,” said Laidlaw during the panel discussion. “For the government to create legislation that targets lawful expression, it likely won’t survive constitutional scrutiny.”
The experts defined disinformation as the intentional spread of false information, while misinformation was described as people spreading false information that they themselves believe to be true.
It would be difficult to draft laws that distinguish between the two, said Jonathon Penney, a legal scholar at York University. “It’s a question of intent,” he said.
The panellists also explored the relationship between extremist views and social media, which can provide an echo chamber that serves to confirm people’s existing biases.
Studies have shown the internet can help entrench extremist values, said Vivek Venkatesh, an education professor at Concordia University.
People who subscribe to extremist views increasingly turn to “fringe media” instead of taking in news from traditional sources, said David Morin, a national security expert with Sherbrook University, who spoke at the panel in French.
He said “self-made journalists” associated with those fringe outlets were present in Ottawa during the convoy protest, and produced “alternative information” for viewers.
For example, Morin said some alternative media sources reported that hundreds of thousands of protesters attended the Ottawa demonstration, when police reports show the true number was far lower.
The inquiry is on a tight timeline to complete its work, with Rouleau expected to submit final recommendations to Parliament at the beginning of February.
Another panel on the flow of essential goods and services, critical infrastructure and trade corridors was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2022.
Hong Kong journalists regroup abroad
When Hong Kong’s pro-democracy news outlets Apple Daily and Stand News were forced to close by authorities in 2021 under a sweeping Beijing-led crackdown on dissent, Jane Poon made herself a promise.
Poon, a Hong Konger who worked in the city’s media for nearly three decades before moving to Australia in 2017, promised to do whatever she could to keep the spirit of the defunct outlets alive.
After more than a year of planning, Poon’s vision became a reality in mid-January with the launch of The Points, a new online media outlet dedicated to covering news about Hong Kong and its growing diaspora.
Based entirely overseas, The Points, which publishes in Chinese, hopes to fill the gap left by the demise of most independent media in Hong Kong, where journalists now face the risk of arrest and imprisonment for coverage considered critical of Beijing.
The Points’s staff is made up of former employees of Hong Kong media, including Apply Daily and Stand News, who moved overseas amid the city’s crackdown on press freedom and other civil liberties.
With staff in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, the outlet hopes to be the first 24-hour news operation for Hong Kong that is based outside the city.
The Points’s recent coverage includes the Hong Kong Legislative Council’s unannounced decision to redact the names of legislators in transcripts of official proceedings, and a recent meeting between Hong Kong activists and Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong.
“As some Hong Kong journalists disperse to other places, I think that although the Hong Kong media is in a difficult situation, it might also be a chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity,” Poon, who worked for Apple Daily’s parent company as the head of digital news for Next Magazine, told Al Jazeera.
“We could set up a media platform for the journalists in various places who may work together to cover stories across countries for the Hong Kong diaspora, and also cover stories which are not allowed to be published in Hong Kong anymore.”
Hong Kong, a British colony for more than 150 years before its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, was long regarded as one of Asia’s most vibrant and freewheeling media scenes until the imposition of a Beijing-drafted national security law in 2020.
Since then, most of the city’s pro-democracy media have been forced to shut down or decided to close out of fear of being targeted by authorities.
Jimmy Lai, the garment-factory owner turned media tycoon who founded Apple Daily, is facing up to life in prison in a sedition and foreign collusion trial scheduled to begin in September following repeated delays.
In November, six of Lai’s former employees, including Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief, pleaded guilty to conspiring to collude with foreign forces by advocating for sanctions against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments.
Two former editors of Stand News, which closed in December 2021 after its offices were raided by national security police, are currently on trial for sedition.
Last year, Hong Kong’s global press freedom ranking plunged nearly 70 places to 148, according to Reporters Without Borders. The territory, which was promised a high degree of autonomy and civil liberties that do not exist in mainland China for at least 50 years after the handover, ranked 18th in 2002.
More than 1,500 journalists in Hong Kong have been put out of work in the crackdown, according to an analysis carried out by Bloomberg News last year, with many former media workers moving into other industries or migrating overseas.
At the same time, the growing Hong Kong diaspora — about 150,000 Hong Kongers have moved to the UK alone since the passage of the National Security Law – has created opportunities for new ways to report on Hong Kong.
The Points follows the launch of a number of other Hong Kong-focused outlets located abroad, including Flow HK, which is based in Taiwan, and Commons Hong Kong, which is based in the UK and Taiwan.
“There’s always a need for a vibrant, independent press. It’s hopeful to see resilient journalists inside and outside Hong Kong continue their excellent journalism,” Iris Hsu, China representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Al Jazeera.
“If the overseas media outlets provide a safer platform for Hong Kong’s critical journalism that has been under attack for years, it would help preserve Hong Kong’s press freedom and slow the government’s deliberate erosion of checks and balances of power.”
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly insisted that the city’s press freedom remains intact. Hong Kong’s leader John Lee last year said there was no need to talk about defending press freedom because it “exists and we attach great importance to press freedom”.
Reaching across the divides
For now, The Points has a modest size and reach.
The outlet relies on six full-time journalists and freelancers, according to Poon, who said the website attracts about 3,000-4000 readers each day, although that number is growing fast.
Finn Lau, The Points’s executive director, said the outlet relies on a small pool of reader donations to pay its staff and is exploring other sources of revenue, which could include government grants or wealthy donors.
“Financial sustainability is one of the key issues, that’s why it took us around 15 months to prepare our media before launch,” Lau told Al Jazeera. “For the upcoming two years, our top priority must be to get the media [outlet] to be financially sustainable.”
Despite its links to Apple Daily, The Points is also keen to reach Hong Kong people from across the political spectrum and to avoid charges of political bias and sensationalism that critics levelled at the defunct tabloid, said Lau, a Hong Kong activist known for his opposition to Beijing.
“We don’t want to overly politicise our media outlet,” said Lau, who popularised a protest strategy of escalating violence known as “Lam Chau” during anti-government protests in 2019 and 2020.
“On the other hand, we don’t want to self-censor. So we are trying to find a dedicated balance between being a tabloid or being a so-called … intellectual newspaper.”
Apart from financial challenges, The Points has had trouble getting the word out on social media.
Soon after its launch, the outlet’s Twitter account was suspended without warning or explanation, Lau said.
Lau said the account had not violated Twitter’s terms of service, but it may have been targeted with vexatious complaints by pro-Beijing figures or fallen victim to the shortage of staff at the platform following Elon Musk’s takeover. The account has yet to be reinstated.
“We are very frustrated with Twitter and we are still considering what we should do with this platform,” he said.
Still, Lau has big ambitions for the media outlet.
“I am rather optimistic about the visibility of this project. Actually I am a pragmatic dreamer,” he said. “That’s why I believe it might take one or two years to stabilise.”
For Poon, the launch of The Points is about more than upholding press freedom. She hopes the outlet can help preserve Hong Kong’s distinct culture and values.
“We have our next generation. We have to look after our children,” she said.
“That’s why it’s important to have our own media, to tell our own stories. Then our history and everything can be given down to our next generation.”
'More uncertainty': Sask. journalists weigh in on changing print media landscape – CBC.ca
As large corporations make headlines showcasing an apparent decline in Canada’s newspaper industry, Kevin Weedmark and the Moosomin World-Spectator continue to thrive.
Weedmark purchased the southeast Saskatchewan weekly paper in 2002, with a circulation of 1,700. Today, that number sits around 5,000, bringing overall circulation to 43,000 when the publisher’s two additional regional papers are included.
“When I bought this newspaper, I didn’t think of it as a business-first. I thought of it as a community service-first,” Weedmark said Monday.
“There’s nothing magical about Moosomin, or what we’ve done here, that you couldn’t do anywhere. I mean, a proper newspaper that’s there to serve its community first is going to be successful.”
It’s a stark contract to the reality playing out for some major papers owned by Postmedia Network Corp.
The company announced last week it is laying off 11 per cent of its editorial staff, among other changes to printing presses, office spaces and publishing schedules.
Postmedia employs about 650 journalists across Canada, and also owns Saskatchewan’s two major urban daily newspapers: the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post.
It’s selling the historic StarPhoenix building and all remaining journalists will work from home. The papers’ printing press will also be moved from Saskatoon to Estevan, Sask., located around 200 kilometres southeast of Regina.
LISTEN | What does the future of newspapers in Saskatchewan look like?
Blue Sky50:02What does the future of newspapers in Saskatchewan look like?
Austin Davis, a journalist with the Regina Leader-Post since 2014, tweeted about the changes on Jan. 25.
“It’s more uncertainty for beleaguered, resilient newsrooms and hardworking reporters,” Davis wrote.
“I can’t and won’t defend these decisions. In nine years, I’ve seen dozens of colleagues take buyouts or leave due to burnout, stress and low pay. The survivors are expected to continue publishing the same standard of product. It is impossible.”
‘Maddening and frustrating’
Trish Elliott, a distinguished professor of investigative and community journalism at First Nations University of Canada and an executive member of J-Schools Canada, wrote an opinion editorial for CBC Saskatchewan published Monday and joined Blue Sky later that day to share her thoughts.
“It’s just madding and frustrating. The state of media concentration in Canada has been this like growing train wreck,” Elliott told CBC’s Heather Morrison.
“It seems like every 10 years we have a commission saying that the way media is owned here needs to be better regulated. But nothing ever happens.”
Elliott pointed to the fact her local newspaper in Saskatchewan is currently owned by a hedge fund in the U.S.
“We’re not being protected from foreign ownership, obviously, as the majority shareholders are in the U.S. for Postmedia. And again that is a regulatory failure,” she said.
Steve Nixon, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Newspapers Association, also pointed out the impact large corporations are having on the overall state of print media.
“Good journalism costs money,” Nixon said.
“The money that’s being used to pay journalists is being sucked out, mainly, by two major companies, neither of which are owned by a Canadian entity.”
Independent daily seeing success
Jason Kerr is the editor of the employee-owned and operated Prince Albert Daily Herald, one of Canada’s few independent daily newspapers.
In 2017, a group of employees reached a tentative deal to buy the paper from Star News Publishing Inc., preventing the paper from folding. The deal was completed on May 1, 2018, with the Prince Albert Herald beginning operation under FolioJumpline Publishing Inc.
“It’s definitely been a lot of work, but it’s been very rewarding and the community has responded by backing us,” Kerr said.
Kerr, who has worked at the paper since 2015, said being employee-owned and operated has allowed the paper to focus in on local stories and support community events.
Still, he noted the number of newspapers in northern Saskatchewan has been on a slow decline. He pointed to the end of the La Ronge Northerner, a weekly paper that closed after 41 years in 2015.
“It just left a huge gap, so there’s not a lot if you want to get your news from a print newspaper,” Kerr said, adding the north is often referred to as a “media desert.”
“A place where there’s just a ton of stuff happening, a ton of news, both good and bad, that’s going unreported because there aren’t enough reporters up there.”
The independent publishing company behind the Herald has looked to fill that void. It prints a monthly stand-alone newspaper called The Northern Advocate, which is distributed across northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Kerr said the other great thing about being an independent entity is having the choice to reinvest in the community and support local events.
“There’s really no discussion,” he said. “We just look at and go, ‘Yeah, this is something we want to support and we support it.'”
NASCAR nears a new media rights deal but a simmering dispute with teams over revenue has complicated matters – Sports Business Journal
When senior team executives in NASCAR filed into a Team Owner Council meeting this month, they were struck to find both Jim France and Lesa France Kennedy there. France, the chairman and CEO of NASCAR, often attends the quarterly meetings of the council that was founded in 2016, but France Kennedy’s attendance is more rare. France Kennedy is the executive vice chair of NASCAR and niece of France, whose father founded the sport in 1948.
Their combined attendance came on the heels of a tumultuous last six months that included the teams infuriating NASCAR’s brass by going public with a dispute over revenue sharing. The strained talks turned some relationships frosty between NASCAR executives and team leaders.
While France Kennedy was in Charlotte in part for the NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremony, the fact that both showed up at the first major meeting between the teams and NASCAR this year shows that NASCAR’s ownership remains engaged toward striking a new revenue-sharing deal with the teams, sources say. Such a deal would effectively bring labor peace through the duration of the next media rights agreement, which could run near or past the end of this decade.
NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary season this year, and whether and how the tenuous situation is resolved could affect NASCAR until its 100th.
At issue is that teams want to get more money annually from the league, saying they face a major struggle to turn a profit. The largest revenue stream in NASCAR is the $8.2 billion, 10-year media rights agreement with Fox Sports and NBC Sports that started in 2015 and expires after 2024. NASCAR could try to hash out a deal with teams after it strikes the new media rights agreement, sources say, but instead it plans to negotiate with teams as media talks advance. Teams do get other monies, but the TV revenue is by far the largest stream, sources said.
In the current TV agreement, tracks take in 65% of traditional media revenue, while 25% goes to teams and 10% to the sanctioning body. Via the sport’s governing charter system, teams earn as much as about $8 million to $10 million per car, per year, from the league if they are the sport’s best performers, while poorly performing teams sometimes earn around half that. But teams say it can cost around $18 million for the top performers to run the annual operations of a single car, and the rest needs to be supplemented by ever-scarcer corporate sponsorship.
Under the next deal, teams want a greater percentage of league funds to cover their expenses, asking for upward of $16 milion-$18 million annually, or roughly double the current amount for the best performers. That could give them a better chance to turn a profit if they get enough corporate sponsorship and run a lean operation.
NASCAR has acknowledged that teams deserve more money but has been resistant to the demands. Still, sources say the sanctioning body has seemingly started to soften in recent weeks to the idea of finding an agreement.
In the meantime, teams have started to try to build leverage, such as acknowledging that they’re considering staging offseason exhibition races to supplement their usual income.
“The best deals are ones when everyone feels a little bit of pain, and a bad business deal is when one side feels they got a better deal than the person at the other end of the table,” said Jeremy Lange, the former president of defunct NASCAR team Leavine Family Racing, who now is the co-founder and partner of The Surge Connection marketing agency. “You want both sides feeling like they could have gotten more but are happy with what they got, and I’m not sure they’re there yet.”
For all the talks going on, NASCAR Chairman Jim France is seen as the one with ultimate authority on when it gets done.getty images
■ ■ ■ ■
For years, NASCAR teams have privately complained that they deserve more league revenue, particularly as sponsorship became tougher to come by after the 2008 recession and as NASCAR’s key performance indicators slipped from their heady peaks. What’s changed from the last TV cycle until this deal is that teams have rallied around a more unified voice. That’s because the Race Team Alliance was founded in mid-2014, not long after the last 10-year media deal was negotiated. The RTA membership consists of 16 teams, which field 36 cars (one charter for each car) in the premier Cup Series.
Teams also have a better sense of NASCAR’s finances. When NASCAR took track owner and operator International Speedway Corp. private in 2019, the sanctioning body had to release sensitive financial information that teams pored through. Teams have then taken that information and shared key takeaways publicly to make clear that they believe they’re getting a raw deal. They claim that NASCAR’s assets make up 93% of the value of the sport, while teams’ assets are only worth 7%. That’s based on an assumption that the entire sport’s assets could be valued at $10 billion combined, while the 36 car charters are worth $20 million each, or $720 million. This is where teams see the opportunity share in the overall revenue pot.
In 2023, teams are due to receive around $201 million in TV money and around $210 million in 2024, according to information seen by Sports Business Journal. Based on comments that NASCAR has made to teams recently, teams believe that NASCAR has a solid idea of how much increased revenue it stands to make in the next media cycle.
23XI investor Curtis Polk is seen as a disrupter in the talks.23XI Racing
The financial statistics gathered by the teams seemed to have caught the eye of, among others, Michael Jordan and his right-hand man, Curtis Polk, as they invested in the sport in 2020 by founding 23XI Racing with Denny Hamlin. Polk first sent a signal to the industry last February when he told SBJ that NASCAR “is a sleeping giant, but from the team ownership side it’s very sponsor dependent and we need to address that model.”
Polk has been seen during these talks as a ring leader of sorts for the teams. In one meeting, he compared the overall revenue splits in NASCAR to other sports, particularly the NBA. As basketball-related income, the NBA’s national media rights revenue — some $2.6 billion of the league’s $10 billion-plus overall revenue — is divided between league owners and players in a roughly 50-50 split.
Hamlin raised eyebrows further in May when he suggested that until he and his business partners saw a change in NASCAR’s business model, all further major investments in the team — including a new headquarters — were on hold. The team has since decided to move forward with breaking ground on its new headquarters in the hopes that the talks will be successful, though it could still pivot if they fail.
In a meeting with media last fall to discuss the dispute, Polk called NASCAR a “money-printing machine” before adding: “But the teams and drivers are putting on the show.” That theme is one that has become central to the teams’ messaging during the current negotiations — that the teams and drivers are the talent and show and should be compensated far higher commensurately.
Ty Norris, president of Trackhouse Racing, echoed that sentiment in early October that the teams had just been a “recipient of whatever NASCAR brought to the teams, but in this round, the teams are wanting to position themselves to receive what we believe is the value of the show. We are the show.”
Teams say the sport has long relied too heavily on sponsorships.getty images
Teams’ concern about the financial model was heightened after last season’s debut of the seventh-generation car, dubbed the Next Gen. Before last year, traditional garage logic had that it cost around $20 million to run a top-flight car every year, but that was supposed to drop to around $12 million with the new version by forcing teams to buy more parts from a single source. Previously they could research and develop a greater number of their own parts, sparking an expensive arms race.
The new car was projected to be far cheaper, but that was before global inflation, supply-chain problems and issues specific to the car arose in 2022 and left top teams paying close to 50% more than original projections, or around $18 million for top teams, sources say. The envisioned savings didn’t materialize, at least last year, though NASCAR did help subsidize some of the additional costs.
The fact that teams can only earn up to $10 million in league revenue at best for operations that can cost closer to $20 million means that they have long had to rely on sponsorships or other forms of money for more than half of their annual total revenue, with some teams putting their annual sponsorship percentage closer to 75%, an exceedingly unrealistic target.
NASCAR argues that teams could run more efficient operations to cut costs, though teams say that would simply mean mass layoffs. The top teams are known to spend heavily to find an advantage, something NASCAR executives have long bemoaned as contributing to what they perceive as an over-spending problem. The notion, shared by others in the industry including some track executives, is that teams are their own worst enemies, constantly spending beyond their means. Without changed habits, those skeptics say, some teams will remain under financial duress, even with a new revenue model. To get an agreement, team executives have emphasized that they’re willing to examine all costs, revenue and budget ideas, including a spending cap and possible tax system if teams go over the cap.
SBJ contacted multiple track executives to ask about the talks but many declined or spoke only on background, noting that these negotiations are technically between the sanctioning body and the teams. Tracks contend that they need their revenue slice because of the high cost of developing and maintaining the facilities, which have to seek alternative forms of revenue the bulk of the year when they don’t have NASCAR events.
LFR, the defunct team that Lange was president of, earned around $6 million in league revenue in 2020, its final year before folding, after finishing 20th in points, which is roughly mid-pack out of 36 charters. Lange said that if league funds could cover two-thirds of annual performance costs instead of one-third, his team might still be in business. LFR, which owned a charter, left the sport after the 2020 season after years of trouble making the owner model work.
“We were staring at one-third [covered by league funds] and two-thirds [where sponsorship was needed]. If it was [the other way around], I think they could have stomached that potentially,” Lange said of the former team owners. “The [New York] Mets aren’t signing all these guys because they’re going to get more [sponsorship] money from Citibank – it’s based off the TV deal.”
Skeptics say teams are their own worst enemy by spending too much to gain an advantage on the track.getty images
■ ■ ■ ■
After Polk and Hamlin made their public waves in the early part of last year, teams largely went silent on the topic as they started working behind the scenes. They created a sub-committee to negotiate with NASCAR and put together a seven-point proposal to send to the sanctioning body about what they want in the next deal.
The sub-committee was made up of Polk, Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon, Joe Gibbs Racing President Dave Alpern and Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing President Steve Newmark. On NASCAR’s side of the negotiating table has been President Steve Phelps, COO Steve O’Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Garry Crotty and Senior Vice President, Racing Development and Strategy Ben Kennedy.
Meanwhile, while NASCAR deal-making has long been based on relationships, sources stress these team leaders have been empowered to make difficult decisions about their future, keeping longtime team owners like Rick Hendrick and Roger Penske at arm’s length, for now, from NASCAR.
As summer turned to fall, teams grew frustrated when they didn’t get a response from NASCAR to the proposal that they had sent over in June. That led them to schedule the early-October meeting with a group of media in Charlotte before a playoff race weekend to publicly confirm that the sides were at loggerheads.
The impromptu news conference featured rarely seen candor in the typically private sport about the financial struggles of being a NASCAR team. For example, Joe Gibbs has always been known as a master salesperson with sponsors but he does not own any outside business empires that could subsidize the team, and JGR’s Alpern at the meeting called himself “terrified of what happens after Coach [Joe Gibbs] is gone – I’m talking about survival.”
The RTA also began consulting with Wasserman to assess the value of team rights and other strategic alternatives; around the same time, NASCAR started consulting with CAA subsidiary Evolution Media Capital while also maintaining a relationship with Sports Media Advisors, with whom the league had worked on its prior media cycle.
Talks between the teams and NASCAR stalled in the ensuing months after teams went public. Teams believe that their public move didn’t backfire, but it didn’t advance negotiations either, and some executives from other parts of the industry have questioned whether the move was wise.
Still, talks have since picked back up in recent weeks, sources say, raising hopes that a deal could eventually be made.
Asked how confident it was that it will come to an agreement with its teams, NASCAR told SBJ in a statement: “We have a 75-year track record of being good partners and working hard to understand the priorities and needs of the many stakeholders in our sport. We are confident our industry will continue to work together to build on the momentum from our historic 2022 season and drive long-term growth for our sport, stakeholders and fans.”
As for the RTA, it declined comment. But Newmark told Motorsport.com this month: “There is a model that works for everybody which actually helps take the sport to the next level. There’s just a lot of pieces and we have to figure out how to get there. The reason I have so much optimism that we can get a deal done is because the sport is growing. If we were in the situation like five years ago where the sport was stagnated, it might be more difficult to come up with a whole new paradigm.”
■ ■ ■ ■
That new paradigm is more than just money. One other major sticking point for teams is they want to make the charter system permanent. There’s also been chatter that drivers could eventually try to negotiate for retirement pensions.
The charter system, NASCAR’s version of franchising, was introduced in 2016 in a nine-year deal set to end in 2024 concurrent to the TV deal so that the sides could re-evaluate how it was working. Charters are now worth eight figures and rising in value, and teams believe it’s only natural to turn the system into a permanent one.
If there is to be a revenue deal with teams, one of the major avenues toward progress will likely be through the potential swapping of ancillary rights and agreements. For example, in exchange for granting teams more annual revenue, NASCAR will likely want teams to agree to some form of a spending cap and could seek additional digital and content rights from teams or time commitments from drivers for marketing purposes. Teams have also offered to approach sponsorship in a new, more unified way, versus the cutthroat, dog-eat-dog world of NASCAR team sponsorship that currently exists.
But for all the technical negotiating going on between the team presidents and NASCAR executives, some feel that the deal ultimately is going to get made between Jim France and NASCAR’s old-guard owners such as Hendrick, Penske and Gibbs. That’s why France and France Kennedy’s combined attendance at the team owner council meeting this month was seen as an important indicator.
The revenue split is only one of two negotiations NASCAR is facing this year but it could be the harder of the two, because when it comes to negotiating the deal with media companies, NASCAR and its advisers say they like their hand. The sport has continued to hold its own in a crowded sports media landscape, finishing the 2022 Cup Series season up 4% in viewership from 2021 to an average of 3.04 million.
Led by NASCAR’s Phelps, there has been a new sense of experimentation in the sport, with its first stadium race, held last year at the L.A. Coliseum, and finalized plans for its first street circuit race, set for this summer in Chicago. Moreover, to show it isn’t abandoning its past, NASCAR will take its All-Star Race back to North Carolina’s historic North Wilkesboro Speedway this year as part of its 75th anniversary.
“We are extremely bullish on NASCAR,” said Alan Gold, partner and head of sports media at Evolution Media Capital. “Their audience is a massive, passionate fan base that consistently tunes in week after week. With viewership up year-over-year, and NASCAR’s continued innovation both on and off the track, there is tremendous momentum heading into their rights discussions.”
Lange summed up how important it is that NASCAR and the teams eventually come to terms.
“They depend on each other, and with this deal, they both have much to gain — and just as much to lose — depending on how well they work together.”
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