Indian Premier League April 3, 2008

Concern over IPL's media guidelines

Cricinfo staff

Cricket Australia's restriction on image rights had led to a boycott by agencies during the Sri Lanka series last year © AFP

Two weeks before its launch, the Indian Premier League has raised a potential controversy by placing unprecedented demands on media organisations planning to cover the tournament, including a regulation that prevents photographs appearing on news websites. IPL officials say there is room for negotiation, while one respected international news agency, Agence France-Press (AFP), says the present terms don't allow it to cover the tournament.

The accreditation forms were posted online overnight with a deadline of April 8, leaving companies five days to sign on to cover the tournament under these terms or be refused entry.

The conditions include the IPL's right to use all pictures taken at its grounds for free and without restrictions; the commitment by news organisations to upload on the IPL site, within 24 hours, all images taken at the ground; and the restriction of web portals' access to images without prior permission from the IPL.

"The terms and conditions are too strict and raise questions about press freedom," Barry Parker, AFP's South Asia bureau chief, told Cricinfo. "The present terms and conditions don't allow us to cover the event."

Several hours after the accreditation forms were posted online, the IPL indicated it was open to negotiations. "We don't feel the rules are stringent in any way, as we are only protecting our rights," said IS Bindra, a member of the IPL's governing council. "We are treating the issue of photographs just as we would in the case of TV production. However, we are ready to discuss the issue with all parties involved to reach an amicable solution," he said. "The production is ours. We are not being rigid here and saying that only what we say is right. Of course, we will ensure that things don't lead to a situation where media outlets decide to boycott the event."

Asked why websites would be denied access to the pictures, Bindra said: "We have not allowed online usage only because we have sold the portal rights of the event to a respected company based in North America for US$50 million. We can't disclose the company's name at the moment as they are in the process of getting listed."

"We're monitoring the situation closely and working in collaboration with the News Media Coalition to try and find a solution," Ken Mainardis, the director of photography and major events at Getty Images, told Cricinfo.

Andrew Moger, a spokesman for the News Media Coalition, which includes some of the world's major news and photograph agencies, said the decision would have an enormous impact on media groups with websites and news agencies supplying pictures around the world. "As feared, the media accreditation terms for the Indian Premier League represent some of the most restrictive and burdensome access arrangements ever seen by the news media worldwide."

Moger worked for the news agencies, including Reuters, AFP and AP, and the photo distributor Getty Images, when they had similar concerns over image rights in the accreditation guidelines set by Cricket Australia for the 2007-08 summer. There were fears media groups would have to pay for access and the body wanted to maintain rights over photographs taken in the stadiums. However, limits over the number of reports sent from the ground remained in place.

The demands resulted in News Limited journalists being locked out for day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka, while the agency boycott ended a week later when Muttiah Muralitharan was on the verge of breaking Shane Warne's then world record.