Australian media groups opt out of covering Rugby World Cup
Australian print media have been unable to reach agreement with World Rugby
Australia captain John Eales holds the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup against France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A number of Australian media companies will not send journalists and photographers to this year’s event because of what they say are unreasonable restrictions on covering the event. Photo: Dave Rogers /Allsport
News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media and Australian Associated Press will not seek accreditation for 2015’s Rugby World Cup in England because of what they say are unreasonable restrictions.
After months of negotiations the print media have been unable to reach agreement with the governing body, World Rugby, about the amount of video they can use on their digital platforms and placement of advertising in video packages.
As a result, the code’s premier tournament will be officially shunned by all the main print outlets – including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun and the Australian – with none sending accredited journalists or photographers to cover the matches.
For the first time they will all rely on TV broadcasts and social media to keep their readers informed.
Accreditation gives reporters and photographers access to the stadiums, training sessions, players and team hotels.
Editor of sports opinion site The Roar, Patrick Effeney, said the media companies felt there was little benefit in being at the ground because the editorial and commercial restrictions were too great.
The expense of official accreditation and overseas travel is prohibitive and the smaller media organisations and bloggers already compete by doing it all from home.
“Ever since accreditation was opened, Fairfax and News have been vocal in their dissatisfaction with the conditions placed upon journalists who get access to the event,” Effeney told Guardian Australia.
“One of the key issues revolves around the use of pre-roll advertising on videos produced under fair dealings provisions, which is what led Fairfax to refuse accreditation in 2011.
“The rights structure for the tournament is extremely complex, and I’m aware that the Australian Rugby Union were doing their best to aid the negotiations for media, but ultimately it’s in the hands of World Rugby.”
In 2011 Fairfax also refused accreditation after failing to get what it wanted with video advertising.
“Fairfax Media’s the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age do not accept the terms and rules proposed by World Rugby required for accreditation of journalists,” a spokesman told Guardian Australia.
“The SMH and the Age will not be sending accredited editorial staff to the 2015 rugby World Cup. Despite this, we are confident that our mastheads will provide quality coverage of the event for our readers.”
AAP’s editor-in-chief, Tony Gillies, said the Australian wire service and its New Zealand counterpart, NZN, could not work under the terms proposed by World Rugby.
“Unaccredited reporters and producers could report on games by watching live television broadcasts, and scrape and publish video highlights within fair dealing rules,” Gillies said.
“Ironically, media organisations or individuals who do not accredit staff or go through the expense of travelling to the UK could provide a richer coverage than those who attend under World Rugby’s conditions.
“Handing an advantage to bloggers working remotely doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, and we find it frustrating that months of negotiations have failed to find a palatable solution.”
News Corp’s group editorial director, Campbell Reid, said the rules effectively meant that News would hand over to World Rugby “the decisions of editing and publishing and how often we publish stories and how long we publish them for”.
“We find that extremely disappointing and the link between sports journalists and sports fans is hugely important in our view for both people who love rugby and people who play rugby and people who administer rugby,” Reid told News Corp.
“That seems to be not that important to people who control the game at an international level.”