Publishers are considering a boycott of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games media accreditation due to the restrictive nature of current news access rules, entering into negotiations with the Games chairman Peter Beattie.
Contention stems from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games’ rights deal with the Seven Network, which will restrict other media organisations from gaining access to video content for broadcast or news sites.
Fairfax Media was the first to outwardly speak out against the news access rules, with a spokesperson stating: ‘‘Australians deserve unrestricted coverage of their government-funded Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“We won’t be forced into providing journalism that’s anything less than ‘Independent. Always.’ and we will not agree to the terms and rules currently required for accreditation of journalists at the Games. We welcome having productive discussions with the organisers to resolve these important matters.”
It is unclear whether AAP will agree to the news access rules, not responding to a request for comment. However, precedents from the Rugby World Cup rights dispute in 2015 suggests it will support a boycott.
The Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) understands that the boycott action is a genuine issue, with Mr Beattie to enter negotiations with the media publishers in an attempt to reach an agreement.
A GOLDOC spokesperson said: “This is a very complex issue, however, discussions are continuing between all parties involved. It is important to note that GOLDOC is bound by the contract that the Commonwealth Games Federation entered into with the Seven Network which defined the news access rules.”
At a Melbourne Press Club lunch to kick off the Commonwealth Games last Friday, Mr Beattie said GOLDOC would strive to avoid a boycott.
“We still believe there can be some resolution of these matters,” Mr Beattie said.
“We are determined to do it because we don’t want to have boycotts.”
Mr Beattie believes that an arrangement can be made to allow broad media coverage while protecting the broadcast rights-holder Network Seven.
“At the end of the day we think we can reach a sensible compromise and that is what we intend to do,” Mr Beattie said.
“We want everyone there. We want to respect Seven’s rights but we also want to make sure everyone is there as well. Give us a bit of time and see what we can do.”
There are several other restrictions that are concerning publishers such as proposed restricted access to athletes for interviews in the athletes’ village, and at competition and training venues and delayed reporting of media conferences of up to half and hour.
Andrew Moger, executive director of the News Media Coalition, has urged the Commonwealth Games to recognise the need for proper journalistic vigour at the event which is beneficial for all.
“As an international trade body which 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”, Mr Moger said.
“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.”
News Corp Australia is in a unique position. In September, the publisher announced that the Games’ local masthead The Gold Coast Bulletin had signed on to be the official newspaper of the event. However, video is a huge part of News Corp’s digital strategy.
The right deal with Network Seven also means that the company’s broadcasters Fox Sports and Sky News will not have the rights to the video footage.
While attending the Going for Gold Legacy Symposium on the Gold Coast on Tuesday, News Corporation International CEO Robert Thomson alluded to the media restrictions on reporting and video.
“For our local, and much cherished publication, the Gold Coast Bulletin, and its new Editor Ben English, this will be a profoundly important opportunity to tell stories and capture humanity in all its glory,” he said.
“The same is true for our mastheads and websites around the world – we do hope that our journalists will have as much access as possible so that they can capture the extraordinary moments and project the Gold Coast on the world stage.
“I do trust that Commonwealth Games officialdom appreciates that the more people that can experience the Games in word, in image and in video, the more the reputation and profile of the Games will be enhanced now and far into the future.”
Mr Moger said that the Coalition will continue to help media organisations fight for their rights.
“The NMC will continue to work with organisations involved in the Games on the Gold Coast in April next year 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.”
The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will take place April 4-15 2018. The News Access Rules are still yet to be published.