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News Corp to boycott Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

Sally Pearson speaks to the media during the 2018 Commonwealth Games One Year To Go ceremony at The Star Gold Coast on April 4, 2017 in Gold Coast, Australia.
by Roslyn Morris, Honorary AIPS Secretary General

SYDNEY, December 5, 2017 - Unresolved media rights disputes have led to one of Australia's largest media companies boycotting the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next year.

New Corp Australia, which owns almost one quarter of the newspapers published in Australia, including the national daily The Australian, as well as Fox Sports and Sky News television channels, has taken the bold decision of informing the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) it will not seek official accreditation for journalists and photographers.

As reported by The Australian, News Corp has also notified the Australian Olympic Committee in relation to the next Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. According to the report News Corp will cover both Games from outside the venues with written articles and videos produced from outside the stadiums.

Severely restrictive news access rules pertaining in particular to video have prompted the move. According to The Australian, The Commonwealth Games Federation is insisting on provisions around how publishers use video that they lift off-air and use online, holdbacks on publishing until after host broadcaster Seven has done so, and take-downs that require sites to remove digital content after 24 hours.

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO, David Grevemberg defended the strict rules to AIPS:

“It is crucial to recognise the importance of commercial arrangements (including with broadcasters) that underwrite a significant amount of the Commonwealth Games budget which would otherwise have to be subsidised through the public purse.

"As the media landscape continues to evolve, we remain committed to working with rights holding and non-rights holding broadcasters to maximise coverage of the Commonwealth Games and the wider Sport Movement,” Grevemberg told AIPS.

Grevemberg called on all news media to “seize the opportunity Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games provides to promote the power of our Sport Movement to people in the Gold Coast, Australia and worldwide."

“It is the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)'s prerogative to balance the need to run the Games in a sustainable and responsible manner, along with the need to give fair consideration to the rights of all global news media worldwide.”

In a statement issued to AIPS the local organizing committee GOLDOC defended its stance:

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) is committed to ensuring the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) is accessible to all Australians and leaves a lasting positive legacy.

This means that for anyone who cannot attend GC2018 they can access coverage of GC2018 through a variety of media outlets and platforms.

GOLDOC anticipates it will accredit approximately 1,500 news media gathering organisation representatives and approximately 2,000 rights holders and support staff.

GOLDOC remains committed to freely accrediting bona fide media organisations who wish to cover GC2018.

Commercial broadcast rights arrangements have long been pivotal to the financial sustainability of major international sporting events.

In accordance with the obligations of Host City Contract with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), only those organisations (Rights Holding Broadcasters or RHBs) that have purchased the commercial rights have the right to broadcast video and audio content of GC2018.

This is consistent with all recent Commonwealth Games as well as other major international sporting events (including the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games).

The Australian broadcast rights for GC2018 were sold by the CGF to Channel Seven in 2014. Additionally, the CGF has sold broadcast rights in other regions of the Commonwealth over the past few years. All rights-holding broadcasters are subject to news access rules specific to their territory. Any changes to video and audio content access by other media organisations outside the News Access Rules is required to be negotiated with the rights holder.

The News Access Rules apply to video and audio content generated within GC2018 venues. They provide little restriction on written and photographic coverage and no restriction on video or audio content generated outside of venues. The in-venue Rules do, however, permit media organisations to use agreed amounts of video and audio content on their platforms.

The CGF and GOLDOC are continuing to identify opportunities for accredited media organisations to maximise their coverage by identifying a range of additional content opportunities, including the provision of enhanced access to athletes and officials.

While GOLDOC is not in a position to negotiate further on broadcast rights, we hope that for the benefit of GC2018 all media outlets will seek accreditation and share the once-in-a-lifetime moments that only an event of this size can bring.

The dispute could expand to a number of other news outlets including high profile news agencies.

The News Media Coalition, an international trade body representing the world’s major publishing houses, and national and international news agencies has called upon stakeholders and rights owners of the Commonwealth Games to “recognise the genuine needs and value of the established news media sector.”

It is disappointing and avoidable that news companies, which provide news and sports coverage 365 days a year, should be made to feel in particular aspects unwelcome at the 12-day Games, especially ones in Australia.

The NMC has been collaborating with the Commonwealth Games Federation and numerous other sports organisations across the sports event cycle, it is clear that both rights holders, such as TV companies and non-rights holding news companies, can each derive benefit from the enormous changes around us. News video, whether created by video news-gatherers or in the form of news clips, for instance, are part of the new consumption of information by the public.

What cannot change however is the desire of the independent news sector to use journalistic endeavour and legitimate content operations to deliver editorial material to consumers as fast, informed and rich as possible – and making news judgement as they see fit.

The NMC will continue to work with organisations involved in the Games on the Gold Coast in April next year and beyond to identify the needs of the news industry. We urge organisers, the CGF as ultimate custodians of the event and other stakeholders to constructively get around the table to find an acceptable solution – rather than for independent established news entities to be told how to run their news operations.

NMC members include: Agence France-Presse (AFP), Associated Press (AP), Associated Newspapers (UK), Australian Associated Press (AAP), Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), ESI Media (UK), European Pressphoto Agency (epa), European Publishers Council (EPC), Fairfax Australia, Fairfax New Zealand, Getty Images, Guardian Media Group (UK), News UK, News Corp Australia, Telegraph Media Group (UK), Press Association (PA), Thomson Reuters and Trinity Mirror plc (UK national and regional titles).


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