It’s hard to believe in a modern democracy, but Australia’s biggest sports body, the AFL, has a blanket ban on internet journalists from covering their sport because they have not been awarded the “internet rights”. As Australia’s leading independent news website we’re determined to have this ban lifted because our man wants to cover the finals and the Brownlow medal and this is an important principle for web journalists everywhere.

Firstly, this is the letter we’ve just sent to all media on the AFL’s news notification list:

“Dear Footy Media,

www.crikey.com.au is Australia’s best known and most read independent news website and we have just bumped up against the troglodytes at the AFL who are trying to claim that all internet journalists are banned from accreditation because afl.com.au have the “rights”.

This is complete bollocks because we have no intention of broadcasting anything and will only publish words.

This is how AFL Media Manager Patrick Keane justifies this outrageous blanket ban on internet journalists:

“In recent years, the only accreditation the AFL has supplied to dedicated internet-based forms of media company has been that of the AFL official website, afl.com.au, run as a joint venture between the Seven Network and News Ltd.

It is the view of the AFL that new media, covering the internet and other forms of electronic communications, is a rights-based medium whereby vision and audio facilities can provide important revenue streams for the development of the game nationally.

As such, it is the AFL’s determination that accreditation in this area of media be treated in the same way as it is for broadcast rights (moving pictures – television and pay television) and radio rights (audio – AM and FM bandwidths ) discussions.

Only those media who have negotiated a rights arrangement with the AFL will be granted accreditation to enter AFL events and the media areas/dressing rooms for the purpose of media conferences, interviews, gathering news etc.

As such, I must advise that all accreditations in this area have been allocated.

Patrick Keane

AFL Media Manager

[email protected]com.au

This is the reply that I sent to Patrick this week:

“Dear Patrick,

thank you for your letter of September 4 advising that Crikey Media’s request for media accreditation has been rejected.

There appears to have been some confusion as we have no intention of broadcasting any vision or audio over the internet.

I am an old newspaper journalist and still write stories just like before, only now these words (not pictures or tapes) are published (not broadcast) on the internet.

I am happy to give whatever assurances you require not to broadcast any moving pictures or audio.

Neil Woolrich, a paid up member of the MEAA, has already travelled down from Sydney in anticipation of covering the finals series and Brownlow medal for Crikey so I trust that this decision will be reversed in light of these undertakings and clarifications.

You may be aware that Victorian Premier Steve Bracks’ Media Director Sharon McCrohan attempted to discriminate against Crikey and deny press conference earlier this year because are a web-based operation. The Premier subsequently announced a review of this decision in light of some 300 complaints from Crikey subscribers.

Can I remind you that we are Australia’s best known and most widely read independent news website with 1600 paying subscribers (including one AFL Commissioner) and weekly page views currently numbering 35,000.

Just as an aside, could you advise which web-based publications do have accreditation for the AFL finals. Does www.sportal.com.au qualify and what about www.sportsview.com? I am a shareholder in Sportsview’s largest shareholder, Multiemedia, and will be attending their Annual General Meeting next week. And are publications such as www.theage.com.au, which do have a distinct online staff, granted accreditation in these circumstances?

Yours Sincerely

Stephen Mayne

Publisher, Crikey Media

And this was Patrick’s response to that email:

Dear Stephen

I received your e-mail last night and I would again advise that the AFL will not be issuing accreditation because it is the AFL’s view these rights should be held by our joint venture, afl.com.au.

In regard to your question about Internet-specific media, no company, aside from afl.com.au, has been accredited to cover AFL matches for the 2001 season because new media accreditation is treated in the same manner as broadcasting rights and radio rights.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Keane

[email protected]

ends

So if you would be obliged to have a word in Patrick’s ear or to email him at [email protected] it would be much appreciated as this is clearly an untenably position for the AFL to maintain.

Yours Sincerely

Stephen Mayne

Crikey Publisher

[email protected]

ends

Now, these are a select few of the emails that Crikey’s 1600 subscribers have sent to Patrick. They spell out the arguments and I’d be much obliged if you could have a word in his ear as well as there are important journalistic principles at stake here.

Give the bloke a go

Patrick,

We are good Victorians, we went to the G for a couple of matches this year and took our three kids. We don’t support the casino/grand prix culture simply because AFL footie is the best game in the world and it therefore deserves our full support. Crikey is also one of the best web sites in the world, and it comes from your home town. Wake up before it is too late – give the bloke a go!

Regards, Logans

Websites do not always broadcast you goose

Dear Patrick,

I recently read an update of the AFL scores on the ABC news site, and read about the finals series in the Sydney Morning Herald online. Could you confirm that these media outlets have also been banned from covering all AFL events, as you have seen fit to do for Stephen Mayne? If not, can you please explain why you reserve this discriminatory treatment for a primarily-internet based journalist, and can you also inform me why it is that I am able to review books, cds, concerts and other forms of cultural entertainment on my website, without it being considered broadcasting, but it becomes this when an internet-based news source attempts to cover sport?

Yours sincerely, Geoff

AFL Members Association wants Crikey accredited

Hello Patrick,

Virginia Trioli interviewed me on Tuesday this week regarding AFL’s shabby treatment of its own membership, and the announcement of an AFL Members Association. The producers were originally hoping to have you on the same time to debate the issue with me, and I was disappointed that you instead only made yourself available at five-to-6.

If we had gone head-to-head, I would have picked you up on your comment that a “vast majority” of AFL Members wanted guest passes for the finals. Not sure where you pulled that statistic from, but I suspect the “vast majority” of AFL members would place a higher priority on being able to get into a game they have already paid for. As it is, the AFL stands accused of double-dipping: taking our annual subscription at the start of the year, and then reselling the seats to non-Members now for $37.50 before all members had a chance to reserve one. And the survey you mentioned is of only 4000 members, not 6000. It is frustrating the number of times the AFL is sloppy like this on figures.

Anyway, the point of this message is to pass on my disappointment at your decision not to grant crikey.com.au media accreditation. Crikey is a legitimate news media outlet and your reasonings sound a tad spurious to me. I urge the AFL to get with the times! And while you’re at it, have a look into why the promised interactive “members feedback area” on the AFL.com.au website has never appeared. I don’t think I’m being unduly cynical to suggest that its because a lot of what would have been posted there would be highly critical of the way you treat your own members.

Regards, Michael O’Brien

Disgruntled AFL Full Member & occasional Crikey contributor

AFL trying to avoid media scrutiny while idiot McGuire’s conflicts flourish

Dear Mr Keane,

I am appalled at your decision to deny crikey.com.au the right to cover afl events and the weak reasoning behind it. Obviously it seems that you are trying to avoid media scrutiny, or force people to read afl.com.au. Now I don’t mind afl.com.au but I wont be reading it from now on – and I trust that crikey.com.au will still be far more interesting than the same-old same-old afl sanctioned boring crap that I see in the Herald-Sun and on the TV.

Lastly, I don’t see why you see fit to penalise a legitimate, but admittedly small, media-player like crikey.com.au while letting idiots like Eddie McGuire (and all your other “what’s a conflict of interest?” people involved in footy) do and say whatever they want for their own personal gain. Get your priorities right.

Tania T

Don’t you want to maximise your exposure

Hello Patrick,

I’ve read what you had to say about the Crikey journalist reporting on the Finals and I must say I am extremely surprised that the AFL would not want the Finals covered by the leading INDEPENDENT Internet News service.

I read it every day and depend on it for its behind-the-scenes information. It’s great. So much so that I’ve pretty much given up on the big boys because, in comparison, the information they provide on most stories is a joke.

For you to shut out the AFL coverage from my main source of information is a real pain in the arse.

Who else do I need to contact to get this decision overturned. The Chairman?, Board of Directors?, etc.

Looking forward to your response – and please make it snappy because the Tiges are playing tonight and I want to know what happens from my independent news source.

Regards, Fernando

No moving pictures on Crikey

Dear Patrick,

I receive my written news about the AFL via crikey.com.

You seem to be concerned about crikey.com because you seem to be equating it with TV!!! Let me assure you that crikey.com does not transmit moving pictures to me or to any other subscribers. Let me also assure you that it does not send ‘live’ reports of the matches in real time. If it attempts to do any of these things or in anyway infringe on your legitimate rights to restrict live broadcasting then I will be the first to let you and I will be a witness for the AFL in the legal action against crikey.com

crikey.com is not a threat to your broadcast restrictions and the journalists from crikey.com should be treated as “just any other journalist”.

I am sure you are a reasonable person and perhaps you had a nagging worry about broadcast possibilities. Now that you can be assured that there is no threat to your organisation and only good can come from giving the crikey.com journalist accreditation rights you will change your decision.

On a different issue I think you SHOULD give someone else broadcast rights over the internet other than afl.com.au. It is a very unfriendly website.

You have a great opportunity to promote your game but are failing miserably. If you want some quick free advice send me an email and I will show you how you might both promote the game and make some extra money. If you are disappointed about the footy tipping paid subscribers and concerned that your deal with Eddie is not turning out the way you had hoped then send me an email.

Kevin

Could this breach the Trace Practices Act?

Patrick

Are you (or the AFL through you) serious suggesting that the only internet reporting on AFL I can read is through the AFL site?

Am I missing something here? You are saying that the AFL (which relies on the good will of the public for its existence) is saying I can only read what the AFL wants me to read? Isn’t that called censorship?

Doesn’t the Trade Practices Act say something about abuse of market power?

Sorry, although I am a fan of rules I will not be visiting your site.

Tim

We need Crikey because Sydney AFL coverage sucks

Dear Patrick,

I have been an AFL supporter for a loonnng time, having spent hours making my blue and red floggers for the Demons in the 1960’s, and protecting them in the rain. I May even have somewhere a handbag with Hassa Mann’s autograph on it.

I have lived in Sydney now for 11 years and have transferred my allegiance to the Swan and have encouraged my friends, my children and their friends to develop an interest in a great game.

Unfortunately the media coverage of AFL in Sydney is pretty minimal and as a full-time working mother I have little time to read print media anyway.

I tend to rely on the web and e-zines to keep up to date in current affairs and sport, and was looking forward to the proposed media coverage by crikey.com.au, my preferred e-zine for news of all things Victorian. I am very disappointed to hear that crikey has been refused accreditation.

Yes, I know there is an AFL Website, and I check it from time to time. But its content is very much the “official version”. AFL fans interstate need and crave the crikey behind-the -scenes coverage. OK, occasionally some information is given that some people may have preferred to keep quiet. But it doesn’t put people off the game.

The only thing that would turn me off AFL is if the coverage became as bland and manufactures as the way rugby is presented to the masses in NSW.

Please, please accredit crikey.

Regards, Karen P

Corporate Lawyer

What a load of twaddle – get a grip

Patrick,

Outlawing Crikey to cover “our” game. The peoples game. The cheek of it! And for what reason other than the twaddle you’ve offered so far? Me thinketh there’s another agenda.

Reiterating what’s already been said “Get a grip”.

Jay

George Orwell would be proud of AFL troglodytes

Patrick,

The AFL’s belief appears to create a new definition of ‘news’, removing it from the public domain and enshrining it as a ‘right’ owned by the organisation. This seems to be achieved, from your email, by bundling it with legitimately held rights to sound and vision of AFL financed events.

I assume Stephen Mayne did not ask to broadcast sound or vision of any AFL financed event, and therefore find the logic tortured that binds these rights to the generally accepted right of journalists to freely observe and report their observations through their outlets.

Your suggested approach treats accreditation as a subscription by an organisation, which it is not, and not as a simple means of ensuring that only genuinely interested and knowledgeable journalists observe and report on the AFL.

Under your definition it would be possible for the AFL to ban spectators who went to games and talked regularly on radio or television about what they had seen.

This definition obliterates the definition of news as being in the public interest, and resumes the public’s right to know as a right that the AFL can trade for cash or grant to specific parties in return for unspecified benefits.

It is unlikely that such a treatment of the public’s right to know would last more than a few hours in the US, where they have constitutionally backed right to freedom of speech and access to information. It would, however, have great currency in Stalin’s Russia, or perhaps more aptly, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

I wonder how the MEAA, the ACCC and the ABT will react to this revolutionary resumption of public rights by a private organisation.

I wonder how you will react when an already accredited journalist chooses to also write for Crikey, reporting information they have legitimately gathered from the AFL.

I offer you a fundamental piece of crisis avoidance advice: if your back is towards a corner, don’t spray paint around in front of you in an attempt to hide from scrutiny.

Kind Regards, Bob

Expats want expanded Crikey footy coverage

Dear Patrick

I read your reply to crikey.com.au concerning media accreditation for its football journalist. Frankly, I found the position of the AFL to be totally unacceptable. I don’t regard reading the written word on the internet any differently from the written word in a newspaper. The distinction you make is a nonsense.

As an Australian expat of many years, I enjoy staying in touch with the many aspects of Australian life covered by a number of websites such as crikey.com.au, including their coverage of the AFL competition. This sometimes provides a different perspective on the games than I might read in other football coverage (refer the pre-finals analysis of the chances of each team, currently on the website). I would enjoy reading the expanded and informed coverage that would arise from media accreditation.

I would like to request that the AFL take a more sensible approach to the emergence of internet media and provide crikey.com.au with media accreditation.

Yours sincerely, Lindsay

The world has moved on – get with it AFL

Patrick,

Despite living in Sydney for 14 years I remain an avid AFL supporter, getting along to Swans games and talking up the code in my local community.

Unfortunately the AFL has not managed to persuade the local media to give AFL the attention it deserves, hence I look online for news, particularly the more detailed and behind the scenes stuff that will never appear in the SMH.

I subscribe to Crikey, and read it every day. I am greatly looking forward to Crikey receiving media accreditation from the AFL so that my limited contact with the game can be further expanded.

My Great Grandfather lived in Clifton Hill, was a coachmaker, and one of the first people to get a 5 year membership award from Collingwood in the 1890s.

We don’t use coaches any more Patrick, and while I skim read the print media, I spend more time reading the numerous online ezines I receive. The AFL should lead with courage and conviction, and not hide behind dubious and outdated definitions of what constitutes ‘legitimate’ media, leaving us to speculate on what it might have to conceal.

I expect to read a piece by Stephen in the next week lauding the AFL for its decision to give accreditation to all online media that apply. When I do, I will congratulate you on your obvious powers of persuasion.

Regards, Bob

Journalist access is a vital principle

Patrick, thank you for responding.

I don’t follow your proposition if all that is involved is giving accreditation to a journalist who reports via the medium of a web-page or e-mail. The principle is the access of the journalist. That surely should be the same, whatever the medium.

Matt Howard

Let the customer choose the channel

Hi,

I read of the AFL’s refusal to grant media accreditation to Crikey Media, aka Crikey.com.au.

In my opinion it is a pretty poor effort from an organisation that was built on the backs of loyal supporters throughout not only Victoria, but the rest of Australia, to deny accreditation to an organisation which is likely to be Australia’s only profitable online news web site. This alone says that Crikey must be publishing something that people want to read.

To turn around and say to these supporters that they can only hear about their sport through the channels you have pronounced as ‘legitimate’ is a slap in the face to all of us who are glued to our screens every weekend, and all of us who read and publish web sites promoting the AFL.

One of the most important rules of marketing: “Let the customer choose the channel”. Whether you have determined that the Internet is ‘broadcast’ or not is immaterial: the Internet is often defined in terms of its DIFFERENCES to broadcast media. The AFL has a lot to learn, and should probably avoid parotting the lines fed to it from their current owners. Sorry, I meant to say “from the large media organisations”.

Accrediting Crikey is unlikely to sap the general footy follower from the TV or radio audiences of your “traditional media” paymasters.

Yours, Adrian

Accredited journalist backs Crikey

Patrick, you have got to be kidding about denying Crikey the right to cover the game. Get a grip on yourself son and reverse the decision.

— Terry Maher, AFL accredited columnist for The Melbourne Times and Crikey contributor.

ends

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