Five agencies suspend Rugby World Cup coverage

International news agencies Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, European Pressphoto Agency and Getty Images have joined Reuters in suspending coverage of the Rugby World Cup.

The agencies have suspended all coverage – which is so far only pre-tournament events and training sessions – over a rights dispute with the sport’s governing body the IRB.

The Press Association has not joined the boycott.

The agencies are all angry that their journalists have been refused accreditation without signing up to IRB terms.

IRB chairman Dr Syd Millar (pictured left) told media representatives at a press conference on Wednesday: “You are very important to us and very welcome … we appreciate what you do.”

However that was not enough to settle an ongoing row in which the media is unhappy at restrictions World Cup organisers have placed on the coverage of the tournament.

The Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) waded into the row by accusing the IRB of dragging their feet over a compromise.

“Newspapers and their news websites provide a vital role in bringing to the public’s attention the essential news of the day and pictures are crucial components of news,” said NPA in a statement.

“This has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, which accepted that news organisations could put pictures onto their websites during the World Cup games without timing or volume restrictions.”

Rugby World Cup officials have said it had conceded most of the issues raised in recent meetings with a 40-strong Press Freedom Coalition of international publishers, agencies and journalists. The Sports Journalists’ Association and the international sports press body, AIPS, have both been active in the negotiations.

However the Coalition says significant differences remain over the use of pictures and match action photography via websites.

Sponsor events – such as an Adidas promotion at which Zinedine Zidane met the All-Blacks – are being affected by the lack of media picture coverage. Press photographers with the England squad have reportedly decided on a 24-hour withdrawal of coverage.

David Tomlin, AP’s associate general counsel for news, said: “Most AP staff members assigned to cover the preliminary events this week have been unable to obtain credentials without first accepting terms proposed by the International Rugby Board which a broad coalition of news organizations finds unacceptable.”

He added: “We have decided that it makes no sense to continue sending journalists to events where it grows more doubtful every day that they will gain admittance without accepting terms that are unacceptable and still the subject of ongoing negotiations.”

Earlier today, Reuters suspended all coverage – including text, TV and picture coverage – of “pre-tournament events and training sessions” ahead of the start of the World Cup, which kicks off on Friday.

In a statement the company said that it “regretted” having to take such action, but “protecting the interests and coverage rights of our global client base is of key importance to Reuters”.

The managing director of media at Reuters, Monique Villa, said: “Amid growing confusion and uncertainty over reporting terms, and the IRB’s unwillingness to engage with us to resolve the dispute over accreditation terms, Reuters is unable to continue coverage as planned.”

The European Pressphoto Agency said it, too, was suspending planned photo coverage of pre-tournament events and training sessions. Also withdrawing from news coverage was the Getty Images photo agency.

Managing director Joerg Schierenbeck said: “EPA will reconsider its position should the IRB allow an unrestricted coverage of the event in the future. The integrity of our editorial core business and freedom of the press must, above all, be respected.”

More on this story:
IRB dares media to boycott Rugby World Cup
AFP threatens to pull Rugby World Cup coverage
Roy Greenslade’s media commentary
Rugby organisers promise to review ticket allocations
European Federation of Journalists condemn IRB over photography plans

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