Nurburgring Management Uses Local Police to Silence Popular 'Ring YouTuber
Track officials claim that AutoAddiction's crash videos are bad publicity.
AutoAddiction is the most-watched Nürburgring channel, featuring everything from race highlights to the strangest vehicles that show up to run—including their screw-ups, drifts, and crashes. Yet, it's those crashes that AutoAddiction claims have upset the Nürburgring's management, ultimately leading up to the police being dispatched to inform the channel that it had been banned from the track grounds.
"Basically what is happening is, I am no longer allowed to film at the Nürburgring," Ebben explains in his video. "The Nürburgring management called the police to make me stop filming at the Nürburgring and also to leave the Nürburgring spectator area."
A Nürburgring spokesperson told Motorsport-Total, as translated by Google, "We approached him several times and tried to find a solution, but unfortunately he did not react." The spokesperson claims that the non-response to a number of requests resulted in the ban. As to whether this was the first time the Nürburgring management has confronted Ebben about the track's media policy, that's where the two sides disagree.
After the response from management, the AutoAddiction Facebook page released a statement Saturday morning claiming that the channel reached out to the Nürburgring several times, to no response:
This is not true. In fact I have tried to contact the Nürburgring management several times in the last few years to talk about a possible coöperation, even if that meant we would not upload TF crash videos. Unfortunately, they never replied.
We have always been open for discussion, in fact we still are. But if the only thing they can do, is threaten us and give us a house ban, without any discussion, what kind of "solution" is that?
The Nürburgring is now privately owned, and ultimately, the owners wield the power of discretion. As such, they've established rules on media use that extend to large YouTube channels with over 10,000 subscribers, which the 298,000-subscriber-strong AutoAddiction channel no doubt is. To film on the Nürburgring's property for any commercial or media use, you need a license or permit granted by the track's management.
Ebben explains that he was behind the fence that separates spectators from the track itself, but stops short of saying whether he was on private or public land. The Nürburgring claims Ebben was filming on their private property, hence the police involvement. Most of AutoAddiction's videos are filmed along the Nordschleife—the portion of the track that encompasses several towns, open forests, and farmland, where it's difficult to tell what belongs to the Nürburgring and what doesn't, especially since the Nürburgring owns anywhere from 10 to 100 meters away from the safety fence, according to Nürburg-based YouTuber Misha Charoudin.
Yet Ebben does mention the most contentious part of the Nürburgring's media license. "If you want to get a media license—once you shoot a video, you have to show it to the Nürburgring, and then they have to approve the video, and after that, you can upload it," Ebben explains.
Ebben isn't the only one to note the media license essentially gives the Nürburgring an edit on anything produced there. Charoudin broke down the license and usage rules in a video where he noted the same approval policy, as well as the Nürburgring management's view that videos of crashes and policy violations (such as drifting, overtaking on the right, and timing yourself during open tourist drives) are poor publicity for the track and local businesses.
As such, those videos are likely to be rejected by Nürburgring officials. Motorsport-Total reports that the filming permit contract itself specifically calls out crashes, stating (as translated by Google), "Accidents of any kind may not be photographed or filmed, and violations will result in immediate loss of approval."
Charoudin also notes that these policies extend to trackside content, which would include AutoAddiction's videos.
While it's perfectly reasonable for the Nürburgring to have media policies in place, as most tracks do, we have to wonder if this drama could have been avoided had the media policies themselves been less heavy-handed. For example, it's all but verboten in journalism to let the subject edit your completed work before it goes live. Obviously, fact-checking and make sure you're quoting them accurately are vital, but getting your subject's approval gives them a disproportionate amount of influence on what you can say about them. At that point, the line becomes blurred between independent media and public relations.
While local businesses have claimed that they've had uncomfortable conversations with customers spurred by the high number of crashes shown on AutoAddiction's channel, according to Motorsport-Total, others who have chimed in on AutoAddiction's Facebook post on the incident said that viewing what can go wrong on the Nürburgring has made them more attentive on track. AutoAddiction also used some of the footage of people crashing, breaking the rules, and making mistakes in informative explainers for people who'd like to go drive the 'Ring themselves.
A Nürburgring spokesperson told Motorsport-Total that they fear that AutoAddiction's videos overemphasize the rate of on-track incidents, which according to the Nürburgring's data, only happen once every 9,321 miles of tourist drives. That incident rate also includes things that aren't crashes, which would also lead to the closure of the track, such as fluid spills or mechanical issues.
"We just want to avoid that the tourist rides are professionally presented as 'accident rides', which in fact they are not," the spokesperson told Motorsport-Total, as translated by Google.
The Nürburgring's strict enforcement of its extra-strict media policy, however, now invokes the Streisand Effect, wherein efforts to hide something only brings more attention to the thing they'd rather hide. If anything, this incident has only brought more eyeballs to AutoAddiction's coverage of the 'Ring.
At some point, it's probably best for the 'Ring to simply let YouTube videos of crashes and rule-breaking behavior go and realize that if they're doing a good job of running the track, most of its coverage will be positive. There are so many good videos out there of fast laps, interesting stories, pre-production cars, or the weird and interesting vehicles that make it out to the 'Ring that having the less flattering side of things occasionally featured feels like small potatoes to worry about, even when it's on one of the most-subscribed Nürburgring channels on YouTube.
To the track's credit, a spokesperson for the Nurburgring clarified that they aren't interested in censoring crashes filmed by private individuals, but rather, only taking an issue with AutoAddiction because it's a large, monetized channel with frequent Nürburgring crashes and bad behavior. They also appear to be fine with their licensed media partners airing criticism of the track in their videos, which is good. It's the larger, monetized channels that are the focus of their media policies, and according to their side of the story, AutoAddiction made clear violations.
As for AutoAddiction, Ebben explained that they will be focusing on non-Nürburgring-related car content for a while due to the ban, although he also noted on Facebook that there are other cameramen who work for the channel who haven't been banned.