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April 15, 2009
Australian Senate inquiry looks into media rights and the Internet

08/11/2007 : News Ltd journalists (L to R) Malcolm Conn, Ben Dorries, Peter Laylor & Michael Coward talk with ACB CEO James Sutherland through wire at the entrance of the Gabba during the first day of the first test at the Gabba. Picture- The Australian/Patrick Hamilton

CANBERRA, April 15, 2009 - An Australian Senate inquiry will focus on a dispute between media organisations and a number of professional sports leagues over the rights to publish content on the Internet.

A total of 36 submissions from some of the world’s leading media organisations and sporting bodies have been received by the inquiry including The Associated Press, New Limited, Fairfax Media and the International Olympic Committee.

Australia’s news agency the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reports that it has asked the Senate committee to recommend legislation guaranteeing the right of news media organisations access to cover major sporting events. The AAP says that in its own experience it is often forced to negotiate media accreditations "under duress''.

"AAP believes that the most effective way to protect the public interest in receiving news about sporting and related events is to have a legislated provision for right of access for news media,'' the AAP’s submission states.

The Canadian Press reports: "In the most recent case, the Indian Premier League ended an impasse last week over coverage of its lucrative Twenty20 cricket tournament that started with the AP and other international news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse being unable to cover the inaugural event in 2008.

The News Media Coalition, which represents a worldwide collection of news organizations, brokered a resolution that allows the global news agencies to cover the 2009 IPL season, which starts next weekend in South Africa - it was moved due to security concerns in India because the timing clashed with general elections.

Among the key concerns for the news agencies was a condition attached to accreditation that would have prevented them from publishing photographs to cricket-specific websites.

The IPL included the condition in the terms of accreditation because it had signed an exclusive agreement to supply news and photos about the Twenty20 tournament to one website, bringing the written word and still images into a realm similar to broadcasting rights".

In 2007 Cricket Australia locked out News Limited journalists and photographers from the first day of the first Test match between Australia and New Zealand after negotiations over coverage terms broke down.

The Senate's Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts ordered the "Inquiry into the Reporting of Sports News and the Emergence of Digital Media" following differences of opinion between sports organisers and established media groups over access to events and publication on the Internet and via mobile delivery.

Media Rights make up a huge component of the income derived from sporting organizations such as Crickey Australia and the Indian Premier League with Cricket Australia outling in its submission to the inquiry that media rights make up 80% of its total revenue.

The Senate Committee will report on May 14, 2009

Terms of reference: Inquiry into the reporting of sports news and the emergence of digital media

The Senate has referred the following matter to the Committee for inquiry and report by 14 May 2009:

The reporting of sports news and the emergence of digital media, with particular reference to:

the balance of commercial and public interests in the reporting and broadcasting of sports news; the nature of sports news reporting in the digital age, and the effect of new technologies (including video streaming on the Internet, archived photo galleries and mobile devices) on the nature of sports news reporting; whether and why sporting organisations want digital reporting of sports regulated, and what should be protected by such regulation; the appropriate balance between sporting and media organisations' respective commercial interests in the issue; the appropriate balance between regulation and commercial negotiation in ensuring that competing organisations get fair access to sporting events for reporting purposes; the appropriate balance between the public's right to access alternative sources of information using new types of digital media, and the rights of sporting organisations to control or limit access to ensure a fair commercial return or for other reasons; should sporting organisations be able to apply frequency limitations to news reports in the digital media; the current accreditation processes for journalists and media representatives at sporting events, and the use of accreditation for controlling reporting on events; and options other than regulation or commercial negotiation (such as industry guidelines for sports and news agencies in sports reporting, dispute resolution mechanisms and codes of practice) to manage sports news to balance commercial interests and public interests.

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