It’s not only the rain that’s keeping fans from seeing much cricket from Brisbane this morning. Three major international news organisations have boycotted the opening Test after failing to resolve a long running dispute over the conditions for accreditation for the series.
Three months ago Cricket Australia issued new terms and conditions to media organisations which included ownership of the intellectual property rights of all the material produced in what they call “Cricket Australia venues”. The new conditions were met with near unanimous opposition.
Last week however, Fairfax, News Limited and Australian Associated Press all had the conditions dropped from their agreements with Cricket Australia, which perhaps feared the fallout from local fans if the game vanished from local press. But AP, AFP and Reuters are still locked in disagreement and locked out of the Gabba, along with Sri Lankan cricket lovers.
According to a source close to the negotiations, the conditions are unprecedented in world sport, as is Cricket Australia’s divide and conquer approach to breaking the deadlock.
“This is a body that says it needs to monetarise the coverage of the game in order to build and grow the game, yet they are cutting off international fans entirely. It’s going to be really interesting to see how it plays on the subcontinent.”
The stand-off is not unique to cricket, with sporting organisations like FIFA, the IOC, the International Rugby Board and even the AFL running into opposition from media organisations over stricter controls on intellectual property rights and leakage across new technologies.
“No one denies what they are doing,” AAP Editor-in-Chief Tony Gillies told Crikey, “it’s how they are doing it … The principles at the centre of this current storm are about Cricket Australia’s insistence that news organisation pay a license fee. From an AAP perspective, we don’t pay for the news. Once we start paying to tell a story, it’s over for us.
“The other one was the move to have AAP and other news organisation hand over their IP rights to CA. So even though our photographers and journalists were working in the ground, CA were saying we should own the IP rights of that. That again is a principle we were not prepared to move on.”
Gillies says he is “fairly comfortable” with the agreement AAP has reached with Cricket Australia, but AFP Chairman Pierre Louette, whose organisation is being held to a different set of conditions, voiced his concerns on Tuesday.
“We are alarmed that in the name of maximizing the commercial exploitation of international sporting events, Cricket Australia is violating fundamental principles such as the freedom of the press and turning its back on the news agencies which give life to cricket in all its different manifestations all over the world and have done so for decades”.
But with the Indian team soon to arrive and with it the attention of the world’s biggest cricket audience, can Cricket Australia afford to leave AP, AFP and Reuters locked out?
Cricket Australia was contacted for comment but was unable to answer questions prior to publication.