NI executive warns: sports coverage under attack

From Stephen Brook, Guardian Unlimited
Dominic Young, the director of editorial services, News International, part of the News Media Coalition fighting for the rights of media to cover sport events, issued a dire warning to all sports journalists when speaking at the World Association of Newspapers congress held in Gothenburg last week.

“We are under attack by event organisers,” said Young.

Young outlined a nightmare sports news situation under which an association or event organiser, such as Fifa , the world football governing body, would have banned from print and websites for at least two hours any pictures or reports of Zinedine Zidane’s astonishing headbutt attack on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final. Coverage would banned from mobile forever under the Fifa demands

More sport organisations, Young said, whether it is the Premier League of the Rugby World Cup, use media accreditation in an attempt to limit editorial and commercial freedom.

Young states the basic case for the right of media to cover sport. “We are there to witness what happened, to inform those who can’t be there themselves.” That is, for the fans. But it is clear from the attitude of sporting associations that the fans interests are being lost in a growing land grab for rights and revenues.

Before issuing accreditation, groups are now routinely demanding restrictions of photographs, demanding that sponsors be mentioned in coverage, demand that media groups hand over the copyright for pictures. The big push is to clampdown on digital. Live event blogs would be completely banned (unless, presumably, under strict commercial control of the organisers and its own event sponsors).

Banned too, would have been the famous “Fergie Decks Becks” front page in The Sun, if the Premier League had succeeded in inserting a clause banning any coverage that would put football clubs in a negative light. It took some hard negotiations with the media ahead of the World Cup in football and recent cricket and rugby World Cups to persuade organisers and sports federations to stand down, Young said.

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