March 30, 2010 / 11:56 AM / 10 years ago

Australia sports bodies and media end rights row

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian sporting bodies and media outlets agreed a government-brokered deal Tuesday to end their row over coverage of major sports events, a dispute that led to a long-running media boycott of Australian cricket.

Australia's Mitchell Johnson (C) celebrates with Graham Manou (L) and captain Ricky Ponting after the dismissal of India's Gautam Gambhir during their sixth one-day international cricket match in the northeastern Indian city of Guwahati November 8, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw

The dispute erupted three years ago when sporting bodies, led by Cricket Australia, sought to limit news coverage, accusing the media of using the Web and wireless devices to profit from events without paying for media rights, as TV broadcasters have to do.

Media outlets denied the charge, arguing that sporting contests were genuine news events and should be covered by freedom of speech.

Some news agencies, including Reuters, refused to cover Australian cricket rather than agree to limit coverage.

The row looked to have finally ended Tuesday, however, when sports and media groups agreed to abide by a new code of practice for news coverage of major sports events, which was endorsed by Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

“There have been issues between some sporting and media organizations, and several media agencies have been unable to gain access to major sporting events for the purpose of reporting the news,” Conroy said in announcing the new code.

“The government was concerned that these breakdowns in communication would adversely affect the Australian public’s traditional access to news reporting of sporting events.”

The code, to be overseen by a committee chaired by Australian International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper, seeks to balance the needs of commercialised sport with press freedoms.

“This is very much in the interests of the sports-loving public who are entitled to the fullest news and photographic coverage of sport across all technological platforms,” Gosper said in a joint statement with Conroy.

The code followed a parliamentary inquiry and was drafted by Australia’s competition regulator, Graeme Samuel, who held round table meetings with both sides.

The National Media Coalition, representing several international and national news organizations, welcomed the code.

“We trust that the code will enable this fundamental function of the independent news media to continue to operate without the fear of unnecessary or arbitrary restrictions on their operations,” the coalition said in a statement.

Editing by Ossian Shine

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