Rights in dispute in Ashes accreditation rows

SJA member Roger Parker is the latest media figure to enter into a dispute with Cricket Australia over accreditation and usage rights during the Ashes series, with the Fotosports photographer accusing the Australian cricket authorities of operating a “hidden agenda”.

“This is an appalling way to treat legitimate journalists,” says Parker, who is aware of two other similar UK-based agencies who have encountered the same problem.

Parker’s protest comes after Cricket Australia had effectively threatened to ban accredited Australian media from the remaining Tests over their use of audio and video clips on their newspapers’ websites, in what appears to be a rapidly worsening dispute over sports rights and online coverage.

Parker’s organisation has so far been frozen out of working at the Ashes series, despite having a large number of potential clients seeking coverage of the Australia v England cricket series. His company has been covering major international sports events since football’s 1970 World Cup. With the cost of pre-booked flights, and unfulfilled business, Parker reckons that missing out on the Ashes series may have lost his business more than £10,000.

“I’m sure the Test series sponsors 3Mobile, who have no doubt unloaded loads of cash on the organisers, wouldn’t be happy to know that Cricket Australia has seriously curtailed their exposure worldwide,” Parker writes.

Parker takes up the sorry tale of long-distance and long-term waiting lists:

“We applied on time for Ashes photo credentials earlier this year. In late September – with the first test due in November – we were advised that we were “waitlisted”.

“Having contacted several of the Aussie freelance agencies we often work with to try to source pictures for our clients, we found that everyone UK and Australian (apart from the majors – AFP, Reuters, AP, Patrick Eager, Graham Morris etc – quite rightly so ) had all received similar treatment.

“We have never been declined before.

“With travel and hotel considerations a big factor, I inquired of Lachy Patterson, media officer at Cricket Australia HQ in Melbourne, shortly before the first Test , what were the chances of coming off the waitlist and getting passes, and was informed that this would only happen in the
unlikely event of ‘no shows’.

“I asked for details of the ‘approved’ list to see if there was anything untoward going on – and to ascertain our ranking – and was told bluntly, ‘It’s a state secret – it is our policy not to divulge
such information’.

“I made some more inquiries and knew that several UK automatically photo accredited Nationals were not going to turn up (this is always annoying as it prevents other photographers from working) – including one who was going to share a room with me and cancelled.

“I informed Lachy Patterson of this and asked what effect this would have on our status. Would they be redistributed to English photographers on the waitlist? ‘We do not allocate passes on hearsay’, was the response.

“When the several ‘no shows’ became reality, I contacted him again and was told, ‘I have 1200 photographers on my waitlist – so the answer is still no!’

“I don’t know if you have noticed on TV, but the boundary isn’t exactly burgeoning with photographers’ tripods and long lenses, you can barely see them. If he’s only issued (my guess) 20 passes – how could 1200 be returned before we would be given access? It’s clearly nonsense.

“There is clearly a hidden agenda.”

Parker has been in touch with colleagues in Australia who have suggested that Cricket Australia may have an exclusive agreement with one major photo agency, and is now using its accreditation system to disadvantage rival agencies, such as fotosports.

“Cricket Australia can give whatever they want to their own suppiers at their own event, but it seems that too many people have been deliberately and unfairly excluded,” Parker writes.

“If they are operation a new policy they should be honest and open about it and not string people along. Before the third Test, one Sydney-based agency we work with was told to travel to Perth where he may – or may not – get a ‘Day Pass’. He has declined this offer.

“This is an appalling way to treat legitimate journalists.”

Parker has abandoned any hopes of covering the fourth Test, in Melbourne starting on Boxing day, but is flying out to Australia in time for the fifth Test, in Sydney, since he has been granted full accreditation for the Australian Open tennis.

Cricket Australia is receiving complaints on a number of fronts, with Australia’s two major newspaper groups, Fairfax and News Ltd, publishers of The Age, Herald Sun and Sydney Morning Herald, continuing to use up to two minutes of audio and video clips to augment their online reporting, without fear of breaching copyright laws or paying additional fees, and operating within widely agreed principles of broadcasting.

Cricket Australia is the first sports governing body to openly challenge the concept of “fair use”.

The dispute comes hard on the heels of the announcement by the International Cricket Council, ahead of next year’s cricket World Cup, that they will deny accreditation access to any newspapers whose websites offer “over-by-over” online coverage (click here for previous reports).

The World Association of Newspapers has arranged a meeting in the New Year with the ICC to discuss the issue ahead of the World Cup in April, and it is also planning a meeting with the International Rugby Board over online coverage of the rugby World Cup.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has intimated that it is prepared to withdraw Ashes press accreditation for journalists if their newspapers’ websites use audio and video clips during the Ashes.