NEW YORK, NY - The Associated Press said today that AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Press will not cover the first cricket Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Australia because of a dispute with Cricket Australia (CA) over the terms and conditions CA is requiring for media credentials.
The test match starts Thursday and the wire services have agreed today to tell their clients that they will not be covering it, creating a print news blackout of the event.
Dave Tomlin, the associate general counsel for news for The Associated Press, said the main issue in the dispute is CA's insistence that news agencies pay CA for the right to license photos of CA events to editorial users, rights to distribute news and images from CA events to online news publishers, and the assertion by CA of an intellectual property interest in stories and images produced by journalists at CA events.
"We want very much to cover Cricket Australia, and were still hoping that things will work out, Tomlin said. "But CA is making demands it would be wrong for us to give in to."
Gianni Merlo, the president of AIPS, an international organization of sports journalists, told the Sports Journalists' Association that "It is of crucial important that the media stands together to oppose the increasing number of attempts to dictate the way the press does its job."
Today Monique Villa, the managing director of media for Reuters, released the following statement to clients of the news service:
Reuters is suspending its coverage of the Australian Cricket team's activities in Australia with immediate effect. Starting with the first test against Sri Lanka in Brisbane which opens on November 8, Reuters will not be covering matches, press conferences nor other activities involving the Australian team across text, pictures and TV.
Reuters regrets this course of action. However, press freedom and protecting the interests and coverage rights of our global client base is of key importance to Reuters. Faced with unacceptable accreditation terms imposed by Cricket Australia, including the payment of a license fee to distribute news from matches and events, Reuters is unable to continue reporting as planned.
Reuters will continue discussions with Cricket Australia in the hope of reaching a resolution as a part of the News Media Coalition. Reuters would like to resume coverage of Australian cricket, to provide the world's media with premium, timely text, photographs and TV. However, freedom of the press and our editorial integrity are at the core of our business, and these must be respected.
Villa told the British newspaper The Guardian that she was hopeful the dispute would be resolved in time for Thursday's match but she cited several points of contention.
"The accreditation terms are still unacceptable to us because they still state that all intellectual property rights for text, data and photos will be owned by Cricket Australia. This is totally unacceptable," she told The Guardian. "We never give intellectual property rights to anybody."
"If we have not found a solution on Thursday, which is the day of the first game between Australia and Sri Lanka it's a disiater for Sri Lanka because they will not have access to our pictures," Villa said.
Reuters, AP, and AFP said the decision by CA to control the rights and demand payment for credentials threatens the wire services' integrity. News agencies do not pay sports organizations for the right to cover sporting events or news. CA says they own the rights to images taken at their matches and have demanded payment from the wire services and agencies to license the photographs for editorial use. More than 30 media organizations have come together to fight CA's attempt to control a free press.
The Australian newspaper The Age reports that CA had hired a private company to take photographs for them and sell the images to the media. The story did not name the company, but it is believed to be Getty Images.
Getty Images today confirmed that they are the official photographic agency for Cricket Austrailia, but Getty Images has also joined with the wire services in the editorial boycott. "We will continue to fulfill our commercial photographic obligations," Getty's Alison Crombie told News Photographer magazine today from London. "However, until this dispute is resolved, Getty Images will not cover any Cricket Australia events from an editorial perspective." Crombie is the senior director for public relations for Getty Images for the European, Middle East, Asian, and Asian Pacific regions.
"This is another sad example of a growing worldwide trend to derive financial gain from sporting events while at the same time controlling the news," NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said today from Buffalo, NY. "Whether it be a local scholastic athletic association or an international sports league, the result is the same – managed news going to the highest bidder. I am glad to see these news organizations continuing to hold fast against the type of power grab that attempts to undermine a free and unfettered press in favor of increased profits and image control."
At one news organization, a veteran editor says that some of Australia's sports leagues have been trying to partner with one of Australia's major newspapers to "lock up" coverage, keeping others out.
In September a similar incident happened with the International Rugby Board tried to impose restrictions on the media, limiting photographs and video published on the Internet. More than 40 media organizations came together to resist the attempt and threatened to boycott the Rugby World Cup and an agreement was reached only hours before the opening match, which was also set in Australia.