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Press Freedom: Our Game or No Game

November 1st, 2007 by Christian H. Pedersen · 4 Comments

The public needs more than results from the big sports events. They need critical press coverage. But the term press freedom is a diluted word, when it is used about big sports events. Sports organisations on all levels are through contracts and threats of no accreditations restricting newspapers and news organisations rights to cover sports events freely. The media need to assert its legitimate needs and politicians need to wake up and secure the right of press freedom, in the opinion Andrew Moger, media consultant and representative of the World Associations of Newspapers at Play the Game.
Is a World Cup final in soccer a public or private event? 69.000 people watched the World Cup 2006 final between Italy and France live on the stadium and more than 600 million people watched it on screen. That was a private party, in the eyes of FIFA. Just before the World Cup 2006, FIFA wanted to restrict the way in which photographs could be used in terms of numbers and timing, Andrew Moger tells www.thepulse2007.org.

Andrew Moger: “Nobody can pretend that when 80.000 people turn up to a major championship final, it is a private matter:”

Other Sports governing bodies have also attempted to restrict the speed with which newspapers can carry reports on their websites, particularly when they are concurrent with the events ongoing.

“Some governing bodies will claim that they have world wide exclusive rights around live accounts. This seems somewhat perverse, given that much of this information is readily available as it happens, and in effect the mainstream newspapers and news organisations which send reporters and photographers into events are disadvantaged compared to the rest of the internet-hungry and using world,” Andrew Moger tells www.thepulse2007.org.

Furthermore, at some press events, journalists are only allowed to film if they are accredited as tv-journalists, and in a media convergent world, that restricts the newspaper organisations from giving their consumers, what they expect, Moger claims. Therefore a clash of seismic proportions is going on, resulting in big disputes around some big events.

“These will continue until the sporting community and the legitimate news media industry are able to reconcile their differences. As they must,” Andrew Moger points out.

He tells, that there are already contractual arrangements, that prevent the journalist from delivering news to the public. Arrangements that are underpinned by the belief, that big events have intellectual property rights attached to them. And some events claims, that the play in front of the audience are a copyright writeable.
If newspapers and news organisations want to be able to report totally free of limitations from sports events, they need to stand firm and unified on their demands, Andrew Moger underlines.

“They need to assert their legitimate demands on the behalf on the consumers. They need to be firm in speaking to sport governing bodies and convincing them, that these are legitimate areas of interest and they need to be more fore thinking, because some of these media rights or partnerships are put out 10-15 years before an event takes place. If we don’t assert our legitimate needs now, we certainly can’t in 10-15 years,” he says.

Listen to Moger explain why. “The door will be closed”:

The worst case scenario is clubs and organisations, who sell all media opportunities as pictures, reports, score updates and audiovisual by themselves or through an agent. Troubling, because it leaves the public without any critical alternative to the clubs or organisations own coverage.

But this worst case scenario is not entirely a scenario, but maybe already reality in some areas, Andrew Moger points out. One small club in Britain has already decided that very few photographers will be allowed into their games and independent photographers and news agencies will be excluded. And in the future, photographs will be sold by a photographer from the club.

“There are even suspicions that the pictures, that will come from the club, will only show certain aspects of the game instead of showing all aspects of the game, good and bad. We need to resists this, because if this becomes the pattern of the future, the public will have no idea of what truly goes on in the stadium” he says.

Hear Andrew Moger tell about the British club and give an example from the music world.

As this being a realistic worst case scenario, there are also better realistic scenarios. One is to wake up the politicians, who have regarded the issue as a matter of business and competing business interests, which should be left alone to solve the issues.

“That is a naive view,” says Andrew Moger.
“Sport has a social role, and newspapers and news content equally has a very important role in shaping and sustaining the society. And we need politicians to understand our vital role, which needs to be supported in this regard. ”

More soundclips:

Examples of what journalists and media cannot do at Euro 2008 and golf events:

“I would like to think, that there will be no cutting deals.”

Hear why the public should be concerned:

Andrew Moger thinks that some countries, for example Denmark, needs to take more notice in this matter.

Listen to the entire interview:

Or download it here (right click and “save as…” - 29 minutes, 6.6 mb)

Tags: Theme: Digital battle

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