Agencies pull out of Test series over demands

Three leading international news agencies are set to boycott this week’s first cricket Test between Australia and Sri Lanka after organisers demanded payment for the right to distribute photographs from the event.

“It is of crucial importance that the media stands together to oppose the increasing number of attempts to dictate the way in which the press does its job,” Gianni Merlo, the president of AIPS, the international sports press association, said of this latest row over media rights and image use.

The row is the second major rights dispute to hit international sports organisers in two months following a high-profile clash in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup, and also follows recent disputes at the Ashes series and swimming’s world championships, both staged in Australia.

The three agencies, Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, said the decision by Cricket Australia to control the rights and demand a payment threatened their integrity and that they would boycott the match if the dispute was not resolved.

Cricket Australia has said it owns the right to exploit photographs taken at its games and has asked the agencies to pay to license photos for editorial use.

It has also given guidelines to how the photographs should be used, including restrictions on some websites.

“Reuters regrets this course of action,” Monique Villa, managing director of media, said. “However, press freedom and protecting the news interests and coverage rights of our global clients is of key importance.”

Associated Press said it would not give in to the current demands and AFP said it would not pay to report news.

Getty Images said it would fulfil its commercial obligations with Cricket Australia but would not cover any CA events from an editorial perspective.

“AFP will not pay to report news,” Pierre Louette, the AFP chairman, said.

“The accreditation terms imposed by CA are making it impossible for news agencies to achieve the impartial and independent coverage that is our mission.

“We are alarmed that, in the name of maximising the commercial exploitation of international sporting events, Cricket Australia is violating fundamental principles such as the freedom of the press and turning its back on the news agencies – which give life to cricket in all its different manifestations all over the world, and have done so for decades.”

The first Test starts in Brisbane on November 8.

The row follows the dispute in September between media and the International Rugby Board (IRB) which threatened coverage of the Rugby World Cup.

The IRB tried to impose restrictions on media, limiting photos and video on the internet. This prompted the leading international news agencies and a 40-strong world news media coalition, including the Sports Journalists’ Association, to boycott the build-up to the World Cup. An agreement was reached hours before the opening match.

For more on working conditions for sports journalists, follow these links:

Rugby World Cup dispute

IRB blasted over its “pursuit of the dollar”

Melbourne bunglers build pool without a view

Football licences and press liberty

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