HOBART, Australia, Nov 16, 2007 (AFP) – Global news agencies ended a boycott of Australian cricket Friday after striking an agreement with the sport’s governing body that allows their photographers and reporters to cover matches.
The agencies will immediately begin coverage of the second Test against Sri Lanka, which started in Hobart on Friday, in which Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has the chance to overtake Shane Warne’s Test wicket world record.
The agencies, including Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press and Getty Images, had suspended all coverage of the 2007-08 season due to a dispute over restrictions imposed on media coverage.
The standoff, which blacked out agency coverage of last week’s Test against Sri Lanka in Brisbane, would be lifted immediately, the agencies said in a statement issued by a coalition of media groups opposed to the restrictions.
“The News Media Coalition (NMC) has reached an agreement in its talks with Cricket Australia (CA) regarding news coverage during the current season,” they said.
AFP chairman Pierre Louette hailed the breakthrough.
“We are very pleased that we have been able to find a common position that will benefit millions of cricket fans around the world,” he said.
“The core issues that prevented us from covering the first Test have now been resolved, but media and sports bodies now really need to deepen their dialogue to ensure that freedom of the press is properly protected in this age of rapidly evolving technology.”
The NMC said that the successful outcome followed lengthy discussions aimed at ensuring there were no fees for journalists to attend the cricket and no arbitrary limitation on news distribution.
It said the talks also centred on ensuring editors could update their websites frequently with pictures, text and data; editorial decisions remained in the hands of editors; and access arrangements were applied consistently across all news media organisations.
The agencies had refused to cover cricket in Australia because they said intellectual property issues and the prospect of a licensing fee to cover matches raised concerns about editorial integrity and freedom of the press.
Details of the provisional agreement with Cricket Australia were not publicly released but the agencies said their concerns had been met.
The stand-off was the latest in a series involving sporting bodies and media.
Media staged a boycott of the Rugby World Cup in France earlier this year after the International Rugby Board placed severe limits on the number of photographs that could be transmitted on the Internet.
The restriction was only lifted 90 minutes before the tournament kicked off.