The Seven Network has moved to
protect its multi-million dollar investment in the Olympics by last week calling on the International
Olympic Committee to strip Fairfax of its journalist and photographer accreditations.

Seven pumps big wads of
cash into the Olympic movement – forking out $19 million for the rights to
televise the Winter Olympics and more than $70 million to broadcast the 2008
Games in Beijing. The network went ballistic
after discovering that Fairfax, which does not hold internet coverage rights for the
Turin Games, had been using vision from Sky News Australia to
stream video on its websites.

Seven said the IOC had
strict guidelines prohibiting such use of content without the
appropriate
rights but denied the network had specifically sought to strip
Fairfax’s team in Turin of its media accreditations. “(It’s) not allowed by IOC. Fairfax has no
rights – television or internet. And they didn’t even ask Sky for
permission. Just pinched it off air,” Seven spokesman Simon Francis told
Crikey.

“I don’t think we wanted their
accreditation stripped. I suspect that in accordance with IOC
requirements, we pointed out the potential likely outcomes of their
indiscretions… It (was) up to the IOC to then act to protect its interests.”

Dale Begg-Smith’s gold medal in the moguls
was the catalyst for the kerfuffle. Seven’s coverage of
Begg-Smith’s feat looked a little belated after radio
rights-holder 2GB, through Turin reporter Rachael Stevens, was the only outlet to call the gold
medal-winning performance live to air anywhere.

Seven’s first pictures went to air a couple
of hours later during Sunrise, in the hope that viewers would tune in en masse in prime time that
evening to see it in full. But Seven saw red when its own vision
of Begg-Smith’s victory ended up on The Smage‘s internet sites, accompanied by
a voice report from Fairfax’s highly-regarded Olympics specialist Jacqueline
Magnay.

“The AOC went in to bat for us and I kind
of did some heavy lobbying with the IOC myself,” Magnay told Crikey from Turin.

Avoiding the ignominy of being expelled
from the games came at significant cost for Fairfax, not in
legal costs, but according to Magnay “in terms of the company lunch expense
account” which she utilised for “all the grovelling I had to do”.

Peter Fray

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