(EDITOR’S NOTE: 51’s X-Factor is a feature on Speed51.com that features opinions from columnists on racing’s hottest topics. Kevin Ramsell, the author of this editorial, is a Midwest correspondent for Speed51.com. The views which are expressed in the following column are his own and not necessarily the views of Speed51.com and/or its partners.)
A few weeks ago, I went and saw a touring production of a popular Broadway musical. Right before the houselights dimmed, a voice came over the speakers welcoming us to this production. That was followed by a reminder that the use of photography or video during the production was strictly prohibited. They then told us to put our phones on silence and the show was started with their memorable opening.
Last December, I went to see a cappella group in concert. After they did their opening two songs, they welcomed us to their show. They then said that they see a lot of us with our cell phones, which they thought was cool. The next words out of their mouth was encouraging us to take as many pictures and videos that we want and to go ahead and share on social media. They just asked that they get tagged in the post so people can follow them.
The above two stories are examples of what is happening today in the entertainment world. Going to a sporting event is also the same as going to an entertainment event in the way that we are purchasing a ticket to watch that event in person.
It’s safe to say that when you watch a sport or entertainment event in person, photos and videos cannot give the same feeling as being there yourself, and having all five of your senses involved in it.
But social media has brought something new to our lives. In a world that now includes Facebook and Twitter, we are given instant reaction to an event that is happening right now. It’s an “up to the minute” kind of a world, and it is still taking some getting used to, especially for those who still aren’t used to a 24/7 news channel and still feel that the only time they get their daily news is for a half hour every night during dinner.
First it started with simple text, and then photos got to be incorporated, followed by video. Now we are presently at a new stage…live video broadcast directly from your smartphone.
This is the latest headache for Short Track Racing promoters, especially for those who are still trying to identify how social media can be a profitable item for their business plan.
The live video aspect is giving these promoters much grief as they feel that someone who is sitting in their stands is providing a free live feed of their product to people who didn’t pay to see it. This gives promoters the feeling that this person is eating into their potential profit for that night. And as a business owner, they have the right to feel that way.
Yet on the other side of the fence, there are also some promoters who look at it in the opposite way. They see it as promotion for their future events. One person is showing their friends why they enjoy coming to a race event and hopefully they will want to show up and see it in person themselves rather than through someone’s smartphone.
Just like the two examples above, two different sides to this. One can make the opinion that one way is easier to control over the other.
Speed51.com runs into situations like this with their offerings of live event coverage. Some promoters don’t want any kind of live coverage at their events, while some do appreciate the audience they gain for their future events.
Speed51.com also obtains permission from tracks and promoters to provide their various live coverage formats from Trackside Now text and picture updates to their pay-per-view video streams. They also do a revenue sharing plan with those promoters in exchange for the broadcasting rights on pay-per-view events. In this certain situation, the business owner (track promoter) is still seeing revenue from the product they are selling. That isn’t the case with video applications such as Facebook Live and Periscope.
The big thing involved with the pay-per-view broadcasts is that the promoters know who it is providing the feed and they have given permission to do so. On Facebook or Periscope, it is tough to hide who you are, and most of the time can easily be identified.
This leads to a question that comes to mind, what is the real reason for doing this?
Is it because Facebook Live and Periscope is the latest cool thing out there and you can do it? (Until you see your next cellular bill and realize how much data you used up.)
Is it because you are that honest fan who wants to do everything you can to promote your favorite track and help them grow, or maybe survive?
Is it because you want to get as many people as you want to follow you and become an internet sensation because you have the power to do things like this?
Or is it because you can’t stand the promoter and want to defy everything they ask you not to do, just so you can try to prove to that promoter that they are wrong in their thinking of how to run the place?
No matter which one of the above questions you answer “yes” to, the issue comes down to respecting a promoter and business owner’s product.
This has nothing to do with the first amendment or constitutional right. Neither one of those gives you the authorization to freely provide a live video stream without the permission of the promoter.
Why? The promoter actually owns the rights to the event that they promote. This is not a public event provided by the government, this is a private event on private property and thus must not come under the freedom of what the first amendment provides to us. Any search engine inquiry regarding first amendment right on private property will tell you that generally those rights are NOT granted on private property, because private property is not government owned. That is how restaurants, malls, sport/entertainment facilities and other places can have rules about what you can wear, bring or use on their property.
The respect aspect comes when you ask and are given permission to do a live video feed. Some promoters will flat out say no and some may say yes, but their decision is final and they have every right to kick you out if caught doing it.
Another thing to consider is that some weekly racing is sanctioned and those sanctioning bodies own the live broadcast rights to their sanctioned events. By you providing a live feed via Facebook Live, Periscope or any other way, you are in violation of that right and could be in major legal trouble.
One promoter told me that they found a replay of a live feed on Facebook. They filed a complaint to Facebook and within a few minutes, Facebook removed that feed because that promoter didn’t give that person permission to have it on their page.
If you don’t have permission, then don’t do it.
One prominent motorsports attorney recently told Speed51.com that there are a number of appellate cases that uphold the rights of the promoters of sporting events to control broadcasts. Many of these decisions are dating back to the beginning of radio and television broadcasts. This attorney also stated that there are several ways to impose penalties on offenders.
It goes back to the real question of why you want to do it. Then ask yourself this question, how much did you enjoy the event yourself? Did you enjoy it more or less because you were too focused on making sure your live video was getting the best picture? Or do you wish that you just sat with your friends, talked about the racing and enjoy the experience together?
Social media is still a learning tool for all of us. Today, it is more about being the first than being the first who is accurate. Some recent events on the local and national level have spotlighted this in a negative way.
Because of social media, we have also become an instant too quick to judge society. It is a guilty before presumed innocent world. Death penalties are handed out within seconds of a post only to realize later on that what happened was 180 degrees the opposite of what was first reported, but the damage was already done and someone is now in social media purgatory because of it.
While we all want to see auto racing, especially our local short tracks, grow and become more popular in today’s world. We all need to take a step back and think about if what we post on social media is more helping or hurting that goal.
Promoters have enough headaches trying to present the best show each week. The last worries they need are the additional headaches because of overzealous fans on social media.
Respect the promoters and ask them how you can help them on social media. I think you will find more appreciation.
-By Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman