British television viewers will be prevented from seeing live coverage of qualifying for the French Grand Prix because of a row with F1 powerbroker Bernie Ecclestone.

According to Ecclestone, the ITV television company - which holds the rights to coverage in the UK - does not have a guaranteed contract for qualifying footage and, because of a dispute over payments, he has decided to pull the plug on Saturday's action.

The station's anchorman, Jim Rosenthal, and studio expert, Tony Jardine, are expected to join pit-lane reporters Louise Goodman and ?? on a flight home today, although commentary team Murray Walker and Martin Brundle will remain at Magny-Cours for the race.

The row between Ecclestone and various broadcasting companies - including ITV - has simmered throughout the season, as he attempts to establish a digital network to carry F1 coverage. ITV was forced to present its Australian GP show from a hotel bedroom at the start of the season, and the majority of terrestrial companies have struggled to gain access to on-board camera footage which Ecclestone sees as the cornerstone of his digital package.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are not able to access the facilities we need to bring viewers coverage of qualifying," a representative of the TV company said, "However, Sunday's race coverage will go ahead as scheduled."



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