Andrew Moger, the chief executive of the News Media Coalition, has told MPs that existing arrangements for hosting major events in the UK fail to safeguard news reporting. He told a parliamentary select committee hearing that bidding processes for sporting events, such for football world cups and European championships pay insufficient regard to the subsequent needs of news media and news consumers when events begin.
This is particularly acute, he said, when there are many lead in years between hosting rights being awarded, the selling of the commercial broadcast rights and the staging of an event.
Moger was giving oral evidence on Tuesday to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee which has launched an inquiry into the how the UK government can establish the best basis for bidding for cultural and sporting events in the future.
He was giving evidence alongside Barbara Slater, the Director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater, Director, BBC Sport, Simon Morton, Chief Operating Officer, UK Sport and James Hampson, Director UK & External Affairs, British Council.
Responding to questions from MPs, Moger said that media freedom and the practical aspects of journalism at events needed to be a pre-requisites within the early stages of bidding and hosting processes and that the News Media Coalition was willing to help contribute to establishing best practice such as through a revision of the government’s existing Gold Framework document for event bidding. ‘That would be a huge benefit’, he said, ‘It would mean that they [news organisations] would have planning certainty.’ While news organisations need to work every day to the next deadline, they also ‘need to know what to invest in, who to hire, what the inventory of news-gathering opportunity there will be come the day.’
He added: ‘We are already planning on what that inventory will be for the next olympics, taking place in Paris 2024, 3 years away.’ For some events the headline rights that are sold as far out as 2032, ‘so we are already on a slippery slope of not being able to do on the first day of an event what we need to do at that event. The earlier we can help define that landscape the better we can satisfy news consumers right way through the cycle.’
As an example, news titles in the West Midlands had been giving news publicity to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games for years, but news organisations were only recently discovering what the newsgathering opportunities will be, including for news video, at the event. He said; ‘The Birmingham Live news brand has carried nearly 350 stories on the Games, 280 days before the event has even started. This is what we do – we tell the story before and event, we galvanize interests. Give us the opportunity to do it, with certainty around media rights, and we will can accelerate the way the news media creates points of interest and participation in sport as well.’
For future events he said, safeguarding journalism would be a very good start as a matter of principle. But there needs to be ‘a conversation around how it plays out on a practical level? How can content be created? How can it be distributed? How can that copyright content be monetized to help reinvestment back in sports journalism. These are things which we will be able to explain to the government and any other stakeholders talking around the table.’
Moger gave the committee examples of how barriers existed to reporting on events, particularly where sports organisations limited the number of journalists, controlled access to press conferences and blocked video newsgather in and around events.
At the hearing Simon Morton, UK Sport’s chief operating officer, said he believed the Euro 2020 final chaos at Wembley will not derail work towards a UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup.
The Football Association has been sanctioned over the disorder surrounding the match between England and Italy on July 11, with England forced to play their next home UEFA competition match behind closed doors. A further one-game ban has been suspended for two years.
It comes at a time when a feasibility study is ongoing over whether to launch a five-nation bid for the centenary World Cup.
Morton, whose organisation is involved in the study, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee he had attended the match and that some of the scenes he witnessed were “horrific”.
However, he believed the UK’s reputation for successfully staging major events remained intact.
“In respect of the bid, I think the only thing I can say there is the UEFA president (Aleksander Ceferin), who is a key person in respect of the process, has been on the record saying it will have no bearing whatsoever on our bid.
“There are lessons to be learned, the FA has commissioned a review from Baroness Casey. It’s very serious. But I do not think the bid is up in smoke.”
The Government has contributed £2.8million of taxpayers’ money to support the feasibility study.
Extracts from NMC submission:
“Other mega events on British soil such as a European Championship event, a football World Cup, a cultural national festival, as well as state ceremony, are each moments for the news media to drive public interest and echo public sentiment. For 2022, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games should be an opportunity for a ‘media-friendly games’ and our organisation has worked with organisers to seek to achieve that for the benefit of the news-demanding public.
Where independent journalism around events is fostered and newsrooms allowed to innovate, the greater the public dividend. While official event information about an event is both evidently necessary and a crucial component in public life, it is not a substitute for independent journalistic information. The public expect the news media to be there on the day, and the news media (as vital stakeholders although not partners) needs to be able to plan in advance of that day.”