New Zealand newspapers withdraw applications for Olympic Games accreditation over broadcasting rights dispute

NZME, which owns the New Zealand Herald, and Fairfax New Zealand who publishes newspapers including Wellington’s Dominion-Post and Christchurch Press, have been in talks over domestic broadcasting rights with Sky TV and the New Zealand Olympic Committee

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 11:00pm

New Zealand’s two largest newspaper groups are not sending journalists to cover the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro because of a dispute with domestic broadcasting rights holder Sky TV and the New Zealand Olympic Committee over accreditation terms they say will unfairly restrict coverage.

NZME, which owns the New Zealand Herald, and Fairfax New Zealand, which publishes newspapers including Wellington’s Dominion-Post and Christchurch Press, have been in talks for months with Sky.

Both groups on Thursday said negotiations have reached an impasse and they have withdrawn applications for accreditation.

The conditions in question restrict the amount of footage used on news websites for non-rights holders and how soon after an event that content could appear.

Fairfax had planned to send nine journalists to the Olympics and NZME was sending a similar-sized team of writers, photographers and videographers.

NZME managing editor Shayne Currie said he had informed the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) of his organisation’s position.

“This has been a difficult decision but ultimately we cannot accept what we view as unduly restrictive and unnecessary News Access Rules,” Currie said. “These do not allow for fair use of copyright material in accordance with the New Zealand Copyright Act and have the potential to impact heavily on our ability to cover the Games in a fair and meaningful way.”

Currie said NZME also believed the conditions “run counter to the Olympic charter.”

Fairfax executive editor Sinead Boucher said the proposed local conditions on the use of Games footage were “unprecedented” and didn’t not respect terms of the country’s Copyright Act over fair use from major sports events.

In a letter to NZOC chief executive Kereyn Smith, released on Thursday, Boucher said “We are not prepared to sacrifice our editorial freedom and right to freely report about the Olympics as a major news event.

“In our view, it is unacceptable that a broadcast rights holder should have been given so much power to control how its competitor media organisations get to report on an event of such national and international significance.”

Sky TV director of communication Kirsty Way said the company “stands by its news access rules that they’re the most generous in the whole world and have been acceptable worldwide, but apparently they’re not acceptable to our news agencies in New Zealand.”