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A new road ahead for AIPS Sport Commissions

The AIPS Working Group met in Vigevano, Italy.L-R: Gianni Merlo, Marc Ventouillac (FRA), Günter Pfeistlinger (AUT), Thorsten vom Wege (GER), Helmar Steindl (AUT), Keir Radnedge (GBR), E. Friedbert-Raulf (GER), William Kings (GBR), Anton Waldmann (GER), Josef Langer (AUT). (Photo by Andrea Giannini)
by Emanuel Fantaneanu, AIPS Executive Committee Member, and Sonja Nikcevic, AIPS Media

Vigevano, April 13, 2018 - AIPS founded Sport Commissions more than 50 years ago as a vital tool in its role at the forefront of sports journalism and the Commissions rapidly became part of the core business of AIPS. However, AIPS is aware that it must continue to adapt to new realities and predict how the world of sport and media will evolve if it wants to remain an important actor on the global stage. In this context, AIPS staged a meeting of the Sports Commissions, coordinated by Gianni Merlo, AIPS President and the AIPS Coordination Sports Commission of Executive Committee.

Tradition of the Commissions - The influence of sports journalism has steadily grown as sports have become more professional.Sports are becoming an industry and sports journalism is not different. In global media (classic papers, radio, TV, digital, social media) and sports, AIPS has a difficult position, but can play an important role considering its position, its principles, its traditions. “Our Commissions have been and are «players» on the field with important missions to form a link between sports organizations and media with benefits on both sides, but, above all, to the benefit of the consumer of press and sports,” said Gianni Merlo, AIPS President.

The role of sports media in a new landscape - We live in a world where media is omnipresent, while sport continues to capture the imagination of the masses. Twenty years ago, sports fans were more or less dependent on a copy of their local newspaper for the latest updates on their favorite sports teams. With the advent of the internet, the last decade has seen an explosion in sports news, analysis and chatter, with dedicated fans continuing to devour as much as they can get. Of course, there are journalists from traditional newspapers, websites and television; however independent bloggers, fans, and the athletes themselves are breaking their own news via sports related websites and through social networks. At the very least, sports journalists will continue to face powerful new competitors with unbeatable access. And one way or another, their old prerogatives will be challenged. Journalists now have to be efficient at making sense of everything that’s going on with the hybrid between new media and old media. Media freedom and pluralism are at the heart of any democracy. They embrace editorial independence, the free flow of ideas, and public access to a wide range of information sources and views. Media independence and transparency are indispensable preconditions and essential safeguards of well-functioning democracy. Challenges and opportunities for the media sector differ from country to country, but all national. Continental and international lawmakers have a duty to protect and preserve media freedom and pluralism.

Role of the Commissions - By its committees, AIPS tried and succeeded constantly to fulfil some of its most important targets: recognize and maintain the authority and autonomy of its member associations; promote closer links between its member associations and the sports organizations; coordinate and protect the ethical and professional interests of its members and its member associations; develop the sporting spirit and solidarity among sports journalists throughout the world and to spread the ideals of fair-play in sports journalism and sports reporting; collaborate with organizations having as their objective the promotion of sport on a world-wide basis and to encourage them to facilitate the work of professional sport media; assist sports organizations which form mixed media Commissions and to help all sports organizing bodies by providing its experts to consult and advise in creating the best possible media service.

A new strategy and vision - The Executive Committee created a Working Group – Emanuel Fantaneanu, AIPS EC Member, Jura Ozmec – AIPS Treasurer and General Secretary, Josef Langer, AIPS EC Member - to develop a new strategy, vision and new concept, because AIPS needed to adapt its actions in accordance with the new demands of a media and sport world (constantly changing, constantly moving, constantly evolving technology, constantly modify the concept and concepts, social and economic condition, a constant chase for money mostly ignoring fair play and true values, more) to remain a strong organization, able to defend the real values of quality journalism in a quality environment.

“The Executive Committee concludes that a first step requires a resetting and redefinition of the commission, clarification of its obligations and the AIPS obligations as part of necessary reform. On this road we work very hard and we opt for a format with more flexibility, but with more responsibilities, because our representatives should be a community of experts with wide experience in the coverage and press organization of major sports events in the world, in permanent contact with international and continental sport organizations, world press and more,” said Emanuel Fantaneanu, the coordinator of project and AIPS Coordination Sports Commission.

Commissions replaced by delegate - Therefore, based on a very thorough analysis, our Working Group proposed - and the Executive Committee has approved - the first step: the existing Commission will basically be replaced with an AIPS Official Delegate / AIPS Ambassador, who has the difficult task to permanently promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication or information, increase partnership between media and international organizations of sport based on a mutual principled relationship of fairness and objectivity.

Debate - According to the principles of democracy, this new strategy and vision, developed by the Working Group, was subject to a thorough debate, with the participation of some of the most active and well known Presidents of Commissions: Athletics - Marc Ventouillac (FRA), Badminton - William Kings (GBR), Canoe/Kayak - Helmar Steindl (AUT), Figure Skating - E. Friedbert-Raulf (GER), Football - Keir Radnedge (GBR), Handball - Günter Pfeistlinger (AUT), Ice Hockey - Anton Waldmann (GER), Judo - Josef Langer (AUT), Nordic Ski and Biathlon - Thorsten vom Wege (GER) and Rowing - E. Friedbert-Raulf (GER), under coordination by Emanuel Fantaneanu, Jura Ozmec and Josef Langer. The discussion were very fruitful with many interesting new ideas, each participant having an important valuable contribution to the achievement of the new strategy and vision.

Satisfaction with reforms - Keir Radnedge, chair since 2004 of the AIPS Football Commission, with a good understanding of the work and different formula of the Commissions said: “It has been obvious, for several years, that the old commissions system was no longer fit for purpose. One of the most important roles of AIPS and its commissions is in representing effectively the needs and concerns of sports journalists in their work. This includes, in particular, working conditions at events where the need for the latest technology and access to people involved is crucial in the interests of both media and organisers. More and more it is the commission chairs who have undertaken the direct and speedy representation demanded. This has reduced the role and value of commission members. Hence it makes perfect sense to streamline the system and I am satisfied that the latest proposals achieve precisely that.”

“It is indisputable that AIPS must take into account the constant changes taking place in media and sport. The financial interests of the «media industry» and «sports industry», development of without borders of social media, economic crisis, increasingly aggressive blend of politics in sport and media changed and change every day the ways and of sport journalism working and his positions. Although these developments present serious challenges to professional journalism, our analysis will separate the profitability crisis of media companies from the crisis of journalism itself. We are less concerned with the survival of traditional business models of journalism than with the continued and improved performance of journalism in the public interest. Reorganization proposed regarding Sport Commissions can be a part of that road,” said Jura Ozmec, AIPS Treasurer and General Secretary.

“To promote and ensure the freedom and independence of the media, to increase partnership between media and International Organization of sport, to promote cohesion and sustainable development we need to develop new regulations and decisions, to support and implement a permanent new vision,” concluded Gianni Merlo, AIPS President.

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