Debate: Death TV

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The huge growth of internet video sites has made all manner of F1 footage readily available – even if it doesn’t meet with the approval of Formula One Administration.

While it’s great to be able to view videos from the latest F1 events at your leisure, the massive availability of F1 video old and new presents some difficult questions beyond the ramifications for copyright. Videos of fatal accidents attract an enormous following of the morbidly fascinated.

Formula One has a dark past, when driver fatalities were regular and almost unremarkable occurrences. Today that past is viewed very differently.

It’s astonishing to see the difference in attitudes to death in motorsport even 20 years ago. The FOCA season review 1982, for example, contains footage of the fatal accidents of Gilles Villeneuve and Riccardo Paletti; the 1994 review does not have the same in respect of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger.

On the ‘net the fatal accidents of drivers like Tom Pryce and Roger Williamson attract hundreds of thousands of views.

F1 cannot run and hide from its history. But should graphic, uncensored footage of the worst moments of its past be available with no adequate explanation of what happened?

Is it appropriate for such footage to appear on sites where people can – and do – post comments mocking the victims of such horrible accidents?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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3 comments on “Debate: Death TV”

  1. It’s not appropriate but I don’t see how you can stop it. Try a search for videos of Senna on YouTube and you’ll find half of them are of Imola in 1994. There are websites devoted to Senna’s death, still sifting through the same old stuff. Personally, seeing it once was enough for me and it nearly turned me away from F1. But there will always be sick puppies who find death fascinating – as long as it isn’t their own.

  2. The comment I found on Gilles: “The cameraman must have been on crack.”

    Sounds like that comes from someone that didn’t understand how difficult auto racing was to televise then (or now).

    The comment I found on Senna: “That should carry on.”

    It doesn’t of course. Another commenter replies that there really wasn’t much else to see, and actually, the truth about real racing accidents it just that.

    I consider it the viewer’s own fault for not learning about the incident before having a look. The truth is, most auto racing deaths are not spectacular wrecks and come from freak-accident uncorrectable mistakes. Please don’t debate whether new safety developments would save these people- it is beside the point.

    There’s a sense of fun when anonymous people get hurt doing something that’s honestly not intelligent, but deadly motorsport accidents are not that. The comments above were located quickly, but they were rebuked and relatively few. I don’t think we have anything to worry about here.

    Furthermore, it may be best to make sure these events -are- accessible so that kids can see that a man dying in a race car is not interesting viewing. Let them watch skaters take a rail to the crotch instead.

  3. Drivers of that era were thrill seekers to the extreme, knowing that every race had a relatively high probability of resulting in their own death. Yet, they continued to race. I recall asking, as an 9 year old, my dad why on earth would someone risk his life to drive a car. Dad had no answer.

    Having that in mind, I don’t see anything more wrong with such footage than myriads of others, such as WWII, any war for that matter, fatal accidents in daily life, or real morbid stuff like executions, searching for body parts in aircraft/industrial accidents and so on.

    Personally, I think the human race in general and western societies in particular, are too sensitive to death and death related questions. It is like everyone is walking around thinking that they will never die. It only happens to others. We don’t speak of dying or death, never discuss it with children, and so on. Of course, you can find the mentioned footage being morbid, considering your up bringing. “I have a fatal illness.”, and so do you. It is just that we don’t know ‘for how long’… The F1 drivers in the 70s sought to stare Death in the Eye, and denying them these seconds of Glory in Death by prohibiting such view is ill spent humanism.

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