Agencies can't provide photos to cricket websites April 15, 2008

Curbs stay on Cricinfo in fresh IPL rules

Cricinfo staff

The IPL's media restrictions will result in Cricinfo not having access to images provided by agencies such as AFP and Getty Images © AFP

Editorial operations of cricket websites, including Cricinfo, in covering the Indian Premier League will be severely restricted despite a considerable climbdown by the league on its accreditation guidelines for the print media and news agencies. A revised set of guidelines issued by the IPL on Tuesday offered major concessions to the print media and agencies but barred cricket websites from covering matches from the ground and using pictures that would normally be sold to them by photo agencies.

Instead, Cricinfo, the world's largest cricket website with nearly ten million regular users, will have to buy images from a syndication service that will be provided by the "American company" that has bought the portal rights for the IPL, said Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner. No conditions have been specified yet for this service.

Sambit Bal, the editor of Cricinfo, described the restrictions as discriminatory and unjust. "We are a legitimate cricket media organisation with unmatched global credibility and we are asking no special favours," he said. "We cover cricket with journalistic rigour and integrity. We are being denied our basic rights to cover a cricket event in a professional manner."

However, Bal said Cricinfo's editorial commitment to the tournament would not be affected. "Boycotting the IPL is not an option for us. Our commitment to cover cricket is absolute, as is our obligation to the reader. We are not blind to the significance of the IPL, which could be a seminal event in cricket. We will try to cover every game with the same rigour and depth expected of us."

The News Media Coalition (NMC), the umbrella body that has under its wings global news and photograph agencies Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Getty Images, slammed the IPL over its restrictions on cricket websites.

"Loyal and genuine cricket fans will be the victims of the decision by the Indian Premier League to restrict editorial coverage of the tournament on certain websites in an attempt to commercialise news coverage," an NMC release said. "It is an attack on freedom of choice and on press freedom to force controls on the media which mean news pictures of the tournament will not be seen on cricket fans' favourite websites.

"It is ironic and gravely worrying to the media and fans alike that websites which have provided general cricket news to a worldwide fan-base should no longer be able to provide full coverage. Devoted cricket fans should be the full beneficiaries of the same freedom and plurality of the media as anyone else interested in the news and should not be forced away from their choice of websites devoted to cricket. It is a sad day when a sporting body attacks its fans and media partners in this way."

Modi told Cricinfo: "We are not blacking out cricket-specific portals. The American company to which we have sold the portal rights will offer photographs at a reasonable price. I can't reveal the name of the company but everything will be clear in the next 24 hours." Modi said that the IPL was continuing with the BCCI's policy of not giving match-specific accreditation to journalists of cricket websites to protect the official portal's rights.

However, most other grievances of newspapers and news agencies were removed in the final set of guidelines issued on Tuesday evening. The IPL claimed that a "constructive dialogue" with a representative of the Indian Newspaper Spociety (INS) "saw all contentious issues concerning the media accreditation terms and conditions settled amicably." The 44-day Twenty20 tournament starts in Bangalore on April 18.

Loyal and genuine cricket fans will be the victims of the decision by the Indian Premier League to restrict editorial coverage of the tournament on certain websites in an attempt to commercialise news coverageThe News Media Coalition

The Press Trust of India, the country's leading news agency, said they would cover the event "under protest". PTI had previously decided to ignore the tournament if the media guidelines were not modified.

"We have decided to cover the event but under protest," VS Chandrashekar, an executive editor with PTI, told Cricinfo. "We are happy that the IPL has agreed to climb down on some terms and conditions. But we do not want our subscribers to be affected. So we are urging the IPL to remove the ban on supplying photographs to cricket-specific websites."

The Editors Guild of India expressed "an element of unhappiness" over the IPL's ban on news agencies from selling photographs to all subscribers and said they would finalise their stand on the guidelines on Wednesday. "We had specifically made it clear that news agencies should be allowed to sell photographs to all their subscribers, including cricket-related websites," KS Sachidananda Murthy, the secretary of the Guild, told Cricinfo.

The IPL issued the fresh set of guidelines after discussions with representatives of the Indian media over the last 10 days and revised the clause that gives the league the right to demand and use, free of charge, all photographs taken by all those accredited to cover the tournament - the IPL can now use the images only for the "promotion of cricket" and not "commercial purposes". The IPL also offered to revise the limit of photographs that can be used by websites linked to newspapers from six to a "reasonable number". Besides, in case of any breach of rules, the IPL will now "make all reasonable efforts to resolve the dispute" with the "accredited party" before initiating proceedings to withdraw accreditation.