Brawl erupts as media mull world cup boycott
Updated: 2011-08-26 10:38
SYDNEY - Just weeks ahead of opening, an all-out brawl is taking the gloss off the Rugby World Cup.
Before a single ball has been kicked, an old fashioned dust-up is dividing the Australian media from Rugby's centerpiece the World Cup, as it prepares for its launch in neighboring New Zealand.
The bad blood is spreading with Australia's two major media conglomerates and major news agency, drawing a line in the sand over "archaic" accreditation requirements imposed by the sports regulating body.
Negotiations over access to the tournament, between The Pacific Area Newspaper Publisher's Association (PANPA) and the International Rugby Board (IRB), have all but collapsed, after the sports managing body dug its heels in over video rights and advertising.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) refused to comment to Xinhua over the current restrictions covering online reporting of the tournament and the use of video, issues which have alienated core elements of the Australian media.
Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd and the influential Fairfax Media in Australia (but not New Zealand), refuse to sign terms earlier this week preventing the dissemination of more than 90 seconds of footage via online entities as well as running advertising promos, despite Australian law allowing provisions for both.
The response from Australia's two major publishers as well as the key Australian news agency Australian Associated Press has been to vow to keep journalists away from the most important rugby event.
A senior reporter with the Fairfax newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald told Xinhua that the threat was genuine.
"Our management is not putting on a poker-face. This is real. They're furious with the IRB and I think there's a possibility that the tournament will get a Moscow-style boycott. It could be a mortal blow for Rugby in Australia," he said.
For this, the Seventh World Cup, the IRB is requiring reporters and photographers to be accredited to attend matches and team media conferences, but the Australian outlets believe that the IRB is seeking higher revenue through increasingly restrictive rights deals.
The tournament has become a flashpoint for international media, drawing a line in the sand over increasingly prohibitive terms and conditions for access to matches and teams.
The chief executive of PANPA, Mark Hollands put it bluntly, saying the IRB was deciding the news for them.
"We do not accept the IRB is entitled to seek to dictate what material may legitimately be used to report news," he said.
New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, told New Zealand television that a failure to come to terms would be a sad day for rugby and a terrible blow for the tournament.
"Obviously if the Australian media are not accredited then they (RWC) will have less exposure and less opportunities and that would be very disappointing."
"I don't think that's in the interest of Australia, their rugby fans, the media or the IRB."
Tournament officials expect a worldwide broadcast audience of four billion to follow the contest for the William Webb Ellis trophy, which begins in Auckland in September.
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