Sport organisers commercial rights need new balance with Press Freedom – NMC

The News Media Coalition (NMC) on November 30, 2022 received support within the Council of Europe for exploring how best to safeguard news operations related to sport.

Andrew Moger, Chief Executive of NMC, described the changing landscape which makes independent news reporting of sport even more important.

He told a forum in Strasbourg on Press Freedom: ‘One only has to look at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar to see how see how public interest in all aspects of sport is changing’. Debates around matters of social justice, fair play, technology as well as sporting history are all being played out in stadia as well as outside, as sport events are now part of the pattern of public discourse, he said.

‘The news media need to be able to adapt their news operations to be able to tell that independent story of sport – of course through textual reporting and photography but also through video. This is the expectation of news consumers whose habits are also changing.’

He added: ‘But such matters are often far from straight forward for news operations. There is a symbiotic relationship with many sport organisations. But the environment and market is not perfect and beneath what might be seen as a fair level playing field there are issues every day with journalists struggling to gain access to see things…to capture and share information. This is not always visible.’

The session, part of form on Human Rights in Sport, also heard from Philippe Auclair, an investigative sports journalist and football reporter, who attended from Qatar.

He complained that the opportunity for video journalists at sport events was ‘shrinking’ and this prevented newsgatherers from being able to gain access to ask legitimate questions. He said the trend had accelerated during the COVID pandemic.

‘There is a real concern that the levels of access before COVID will never be restored’, he told the Council of Europe event at Palais de L’Europe which included sport policy makers and representatives from Member States.

“Generally sport has a pretty good relationship with the traditional press” – Lichtenhein

But Mark Lichtenhein, Chairman of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC) said existing arrangements provided for a balance between the commercial freedoms of sport and the needs of the news media. He said: “Media coverage is critical to the success of sport. The media value that is generated is what makes the return for the sponsors and for the investors in the individual sport. And like to think that generally sport has a pretty good relationship with the traditional press. We have well defined relationships, regulated contractually.”

Moger also emphasized that the News Media is a very distinct sector of the wider media industry, and its societal role should not be confused with the challenges presented by other media sectors such as social media platforms.  As an example the News Media Coalition’s members of press publishers and news agencies create and disseminate text, photo and video reports 365 days a year 24 hours a day. They are independent of the subjects of news and need to be able to fulfil their society role to witness, inquire and inform.

He informed the participants that there are numerous restrictions placed on press entities when covering sporting events, such as limitations on video cameras in press conferences, and efforts by some sport organisations to prevent journalistic video content being used in digital news services. It was not long ago, he said, that some sport organisations sought to secure for themselves the right to put content onto mobile smart phones.

‘Now, news video, capturing essential elements of what happens in real life before our eyes is a crucial component of our ability to present properly informed story telling about what is going in general life but also matters of public interest and news outside of stadia but also within stadia.’

He called on the Council of Europe to ensure that the recently Revised European Sports Charter (LINK HERE) which recalls the importance of the media in sport is upheld and invited further workstreams to highlight press concerns.


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