By Keir Radnedge
The second cricket Test between Australia and Sri Lanka got underway in Hobart with restrictions on media rights and press accreditation lifted by Cricket Australia.
Agreement had been reached between the News Media Coalition â€“ which includes the Sports Journalists’ Association and AIPS â€“ and the Australian cricket authority just in time for full coverage to resume at the second Test. Reuters, AFP and other agencies had boycotted the first Test match earlier this month in a dispute over ownership of image rights.
That was an enormous relief to newspapers in Sri Lanka whose editors had feared the absence of agency photographic coverage would deny them pictures of Muttiah Muralitharan potentially breaking Shane Warneâ€™s record of 708 Test wickets.
â€œWe are pleased for cricket fans around the world but we are also equally pleased that we have been to stand up for the rights of free reporting in an increasingly commercialised sports world,â€ said Gianni Merlo, the president of the international sports press association, AIPS.
â€œWe have never understood why so many administrators in many sports fail to understand the promotional value to their sport of the many daily pages of coverage which they receive free of charge.â€
The mediaâ€™s stance against Cricket Australia â€“ which saw international agencies withdraw coverage and saw other journalists locked out of the first Test â€“ followed a similar dispute over accreditation terms and conditions on the eve of the Rugby World Cup.
The News Media Coalition was concerned, among other issues, at Cricket Australiaâ€™s intention on levying a licence fee on certain areas of photographic coverage. This was considered as a dangerous precedent which might lead to charges for journalistic attendance.
A joint statement issued by CA and the Coalition issued yesterday said the newly negotiated terms would apply even to NMC members not yet accredited and would be offered to other news groups which had already signed separate agreements.
The agreement is a provisional one which also allows editors to update their websites more frequently with pictures, text and data. It also reflects CAâ€™s acceptance that editorial decisions remain with editors; and that access arrangements are applied consistently across all news media organisations.
This agreement applies for the present Australian season only, with further discussions promised.