German TV told it must broadcast Tour de France

German public broadcaster ARD has been told it has no basis on which to bring a premature end to its contract with Tour de France organisers to show the race in 2009-2011.

A spate of recent doping scandals, some of which involved German and Austrian riders, prompted ARD and fellow German broadcaster ZDF to announce their intention not to stop broadcasting the world’s biggest bike race.

But on Tuesday Fritz Pleitgen, the president of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which represents 75 public broadcasters, said ARD was tied by its current contract with ASO, the company which own the Tour.

Pleitgen said ARD, and fellow German broadcaster ZDF, had acquired the television rights from 2009-2011 alongside a group of around 10 other public channels – and would have to honour it.

“ARD, in conjunction with ZDF, signed a contract last January that covers the period from 2009-2011 for a total of six million euros a year,” Pleitgen said Tuesday, adding that ARD’s attempt to break its contract was “against the rules” of the EBU.

Pleitgen said both ARD and ZDF had included clauses in their contract which demanded that Tour organisers employ “the most modern anti-doping controls” available. “If these conditions are not respected by the organisers, the television channels can end their contract once it becomes valid on January 1, 2009,” added Pleitgen.

A total of seven riders from this year’s race have tested positive, four of whom – Italians Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli, German Stefan Schumacher and Austrian Bernhard Kohl – for the latest generation of blood-boosting EPO (erythropoietin) called CERA.

Although attracting further scandal to the sport, Tour organisers have applauded the weeding out of drugs cheats. They see it as a positive step which will, they hope, deter others. Pleitgen, who helps to negotiate television rights deals for the Olympic Games and World Cup, said he hoped that both parties – ARD/ZDF and the race organisers – would “come to a common agreement without having to go through the courts.”

He added that a pullout by ARD would “make it more difficult” to obtain such rights in the future because “the confidence would no longer be there.”

The Tour de France is one of the most popular televised sports events in Germany and Pleitgen said breaking the contract “would be hard to defend to the German people who pay their television licence fees.”


VIDEO: Why you may struggle to buy a bike in Europe in 2021

Demand for bicycles has soared in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic, but conversely the global supply is at record low levels, with consumers having to wait months or over a year for their bike of choice.

VIDEO: Why you may struggle to buy a bike in Europe in 2021
Photo: Stocksnap/Pixabay

Bikes are projected to outsell cars in Europe by two to one by 2030.   

But 2021 will not be an easy year to buy a bike in many European countries, especially if you have a particular model in mind. 

Firstly, there's been a huge surge in demand for bikes during the pandemic, as Europeans looked for ways to stay fit and move around more freely without having to worry about being exposed to Covid-19 on public transport.

On the flip side, bike production in China, which supplies almost the entire global market, has practically ground to a halt.

The same can be said for bicycle accessories and components, which are either not being produced in Chinese factories currently or held up for months in ports in Asia due to the reduction of capacity in shipping.


In this short report, video producer Alex Dunham explores the issue of Europe's bike shortage in 2021.