Newspaper and online coverage of the Rugby World Cup later this year in New Zealand has been thrown into disarray after News Limited in Australia refused to agree to accreditation terms for its journalists because of restrictive demands by the International Rugby Board.
The issue is the IRB’s insistence on a set of fixed limits on the use of video clips, as part of “fair use” news reporting, that can be shown on newspapers’ websites. The suggested limits are 90 seconds of total footage, a requirement for them to be taken down after 48 hours, and for the material to be “geo-blocked” by territory, among other restrictions.
The Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Limited is Australia’s largest newspaper group, and includes the Sydney Daily Telegraph and The Australian, published out of Melbourne.
In a report published by The Australian earlier this week, News Limited group editorial director Campbell Reid said the publisher would not allow the IRB to censor its coverage of the event. He also said that agreeing to the terms set by the IRB could set a dangerous precedent that could damage the ability of newspapers to cover future sporting events.
The demands come a year after news organisations and sporting bodies in Australia agreed to a world-first voluntary code of conduct enshrining the right of papers and photographers to cover sporting events.
“Our ability to cover the event is better if we don’t sign the accreditation. It is about freedom of speech and our ability to make decisions on what is news,” Reid said in The Australian.
The IRB said that there is “no stalemate” over news access. There must be some concern, given the global reach of the Murdoch publishing empire, that the dispute may yet extend to his British titles, including The Sun and the Sunday Times.
“Further planned discussions will take place and the IRB is committed to a continuation of discussions with the Australian Newspaper Publishers Association and its stakeholders to find a workable way forward,” an IRB spokesman said.
Australian media, and World Cups, have been flashpoints for disputes over publishing rights and accreditation conditions in the past. The 2007 Cricket World Cup saw journalists and media organisations charged exhorbitant amounts for internet access, while on the eve of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, five major news agencies orchestrated a boycott of coverage until the IRB agreed to their demands over access issues.
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