Aussie media agrees code with sports bodies

A voluntary code of practice has been agreed in Australia between sports authorities and leading media groups, in an effort to end long-running disputes over press licensing.

The code is the first of its kind, and ends several restrictions placed on the media by sports bodies, such as not allowing the use of sports news and images online, and restricting the number of updates posted on websites. Many media groups believed the restrictions to infringe on press freedom, and those that did not agree to them were not allowed to cover certain events.

The code assures sports organisations that photographs or text taken at the events will not be used for commercial purposes beyond news reporting.

An Australian senate inquiry began in Canberra last year looking into the issue, after a series of media boycotts of sports events, including rugby league and Test match cricket.

Under the supervision of the federal government, the code has seen the formation of a committee to administer media practices headed by Kevan Gosper, the former International Olympic Committee vice president.

“Positions have been properly defined … in such a way where the media is able to clearly sustain its freedom to send news and information and pictures out to the public, and the sporting organisations recognise this is in their interest,” Gosper said. “There’s been a clear definition of what is commercial (use) and what is news.”

The deal was brokered by Graeme Samuel, chairman of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he supported the code, and that the Australian government had been concerned “that these breakdowns in communication would adversely affect the Australian public’s traditional access to news reporting of sporting events”.

The leading Australian sports bodies that signed the agreement include: Cricket Australia, the Australian Football League (AFL), the Australian Rugby Union, the National Rugby League and Tennis Australia. Media groups that signed the agreement include: Agence France-Presse, Fairfax Media, News Limited, Australian Associated Press and Getty Images.

“This is a positive step and ends continual negotiations that increasingly restricted press freedoms in covering major sporting events. Last week, this process helped ensure photographers of AAP and Getty Images were allowed back into the Australian Football League for the first time in two years,” Mark Hollands, chief executive of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, told The Australian.

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