A refusal to sign away rights protected under fair dealing provisions of Australian and New Zealand law is behind the decision by three major media organisations to boycott this year’s rugby World Cup in England.
The publishers have refused to comply with what they say are overly-restrictive licensing conditions around World Cup coverage.
The decision means Fairfax Media, News Corp Australia and AAP will not be accredited to cover the tournament and will have to use other methods to report on games.
World Rugby, which oversees the World Cup, has demanded a high level of control over footage from the game and of interviews with players, beyond that permitted by Australian law.
Organisers have insisted coverage must be geo-blocked and made unavailable after 48 hours, while the workaround used by newspaper representatives at the 2011 event of interviewing players at their hotels after the game would not be allowed this year.
In addition, no more than three minutes of match content would be allowed to appear in any program or bulletin, which itself could not appear more than three times a day, separated by at least three hours.
The Newspaper Works chief executive Mark Hollands said the outcome was disappointing, as both sides went through an exhaustive process.
“Ultimately, it comes down to TV rights,” he said. “Globally, sports bodies sell exclusive rights that cannot be delivered where fair dealing provisions exist, as they do in Australia and New Zealand.
“This is the second rugby World Cup from which publishers have walked away. The point is – as shown in 2011 – readers will actually get a better experience on all platforms if publishers do not sign accreditation documents.
“Newspapers also will not put themselves in legally complex situations that run the risk of sky-high legal costs to report on a sport.”
AAP editor-in-chief Tony Gillies said AAP was not seeking to shoot video within the World Cup venues. “But World Rugby wants to dictate how and when the limited footage gleaned from outside the venues under Australia’s effective fair dealing principles is shown,” he said.
“We are not prepared to sign away what we see as fundamental editorial rights.”
Mr Gillies said it was ironic that unaccredited organisations or individuals who did not go through the expense of travelling to the UK could provide better coverage than those who attend under the accreditation.
“We find it frustrating that months of negotiations have failed to find a palatable solution,” Mr Gillies said.
Neither Fairfax nor AAP elaborated on what their alternative coverage plans would be. “We are confident that our mastheads will provide quality coverage of the event for our readers,” a Fairfax spokesman said.
News Corp Australia has decided to provide coverage from outside the venues.
“We will not accept terms and conditions that attempt to undermine the fundamental principle of a free press by limiting newsgathering and news reporting,” a News Corp Australia spokesman said.
“Our millions of readers rely on our publications as trusted source of news [and] we cannot accept limitations on our ability to report the news.”
Mr Gillies said that while similar issues for the 2011 tournament in New Zealand were eventually able to be resolved, “these developments can’t be good for the health of rugby in this part of the world.”
“Nothing beats being there, but we just can’t work to these terms.” He said the terms were tighter than coverage restrictions on the Olympic Games.
The relationship between sporting codes and the media in Australia is much better, he said, and a sports media code has been built and protected by both sides.
Q and A with Tony Gillies
The Newspaper Works put a number of questions to Mr Gillies this week on the decision to refuse accreditation.
What does this mean for AAP’s coverage of the RWC? What coverage will you be able to provide?
The AAP Newswire team is making that assessment now and we aim to communicate that to our subscribers in the coming weeks.
What were the restrictions that led to this decision, exactly?
Australian Associated Press will not send its Australian and New Zealand staff to the UK for the rugby World Cup because the governing body’s terms unreasonably limit editorialised video match highlights.
We’re not seeking to shoot video within the venues but World Rugby wants to dictate how and when the limited footage gleaned from outside the venues under Australia’s effective fair dealing principles is shown.
Do you believe you’ve successfully sent a message to the organisers by not seeking accreditation?
Our decision was not a protest or about sending a message. And it was not taken lightly. We are not prepared to sign away what we see as fundamental editorial rights.
Ironically, media organisations or individuals who do not accredit staff or go through the expense of travelling to the UK could provide a richer coverage than those who attend under World Rugby’s conditions.
Unaccredited reporters and producers could report on games by watching live television broadcasts, and scrape and publish video highlights within fair dealing rules.
Handing an advantage to bloggers working remotely doesn’t make a lot of sense to us and we find it frustrating that months of negotiations have failed to find a palatable solution.
What sort of response have we seen from other international media outlets?
Several international organisations have signed to the terms. Australian media however operates under fair dealing provisions when it comes to video.
These rights are protected by law and we were not going to sign those away.
What international media makes of this I am not sure. You will need to ask them directly.
Why do you think they’re seeking such tight control? Is this a new thing?
International sports bodies are attempting to protect broadcast rights. We understand that but we don’t believe our requests put any of that in jeopardy.
There were similar issues in 2011 for the rugby World Cup in New Zealand. World Rugby’s terms are even tighter than the Olympic Games.
These developments can’t be good for the health of rugby in this part of the world.
We genuinely want to be at the games providing rich coverage the tournament and news of the Australian and New Zealand camps for local audiences. Nothing beats being there. But we just can’t work to these terms.
Are terms like this common in major sporting events?
Media accreditation issues now are highly visible, and have been for some years now. In Australia the situation works very well now
There is a sports media code that both media and professional sports bodies have worked very hard to create and since protect.
Media and sports bodies have a symbiotic relationship. We need each other and the code sits nicely between us.
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