Media boycott threatened over BCCI stance
Major news agencies could boycott the series between India and England in protest at restrictions imposed upon journalists by the BCCI.
The News Media Coalition (NMC), which campaigns for media freedom around the world and represents a large number of media organisations, has issued a statement saying it "deplored" a decision by the India board to bar photo agencies such as Getty Images and Action Images. The BCCI have said they will supply their own images of the series, which starts with the first Test in Ahmedabad on Thursday, to be downloaded from their website.
"The NMC, an international organisation which defends the ability of the press to inform the public with independent news material, has urged the BCCI to withdraw the policy which will hit media coverage, fans and the sponsors involved with teams," a NMC statement read. "Getty Images and Action Images and Indian photographic agencies have been barred by the BCCI for this latest cricket series."
Agence France-Presse (AFP) announced they would suspend text and photo coverage unless the matter could be resolved ahead of the series. AFP stated that it "strongly believes the right of the media to cover news events without undue restrictions should be protected", adding it hoped "the BCCI will lift its policy so news media and fans can continue to get independent coverage".
Reuters and the Associated Press also said they may be forced to suspend coverage. Other news organisations are considering their positions, fearing that the BCCI's policy may set a precedent.
"The BCCI has offered to make its own photographs available but this is no substitute for independent and objective press photography," Andrew Moger, executive director of NMC, said. "Despite numerous opportunities, the BCCI has yet to explain why it is discriminating against photographic agencies or indeed whether other news sectors will be targeted. We deplore this move and insult to organisations which have supported cricket worldwide."
BCCI media manager Devendra Prabhudesai said the board was not seeking to bar news agencies. "The BCCI has a policy not to accredit photo syndication services like Getty Images and other similar foreign and domestic agencies," he told AFP. "We have no such problems with AFP, AP or Reuters since their text and photo service is for editorial use only. We have already explained our stand to the News Media Coalition."
The episode is the latest dispute between the BCCI and media organisations in the run-up to the series. Sky TV, which owns the television rights for the tour in the UK, decided not to send its team of commentators to India after the BCCI demanded £500,000 for hosting them in the grounds. Sky refused to pay and will instead commentate from a live television feed in London.
The BBC, which owns the rights for audio coverage in the UK, was also asked for an extra £50,000 but reached an agreement with the BCCI.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo