Fairfax and NZME argue Sky TV's Olympic rules are unfair

Kiwi viewers may have their access to footage of Olympic competition restricted at this year's games.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Kiwi viewers may have their access to footage of Olympic competition restricted at this year's games.

New Zealand news websites are this week trying to negotiate a deal that will allow them to freely cover the upcoming Olympic Games – or may pull their reporting teams entirely.

Sky TV is attempting to severely restrict the online coverage of the games, with rules that Fairfax executive editor Sinead Boucher said were unprecedented.

Rules that were suggested and have since been negotiated away include a requirement that websites wait three hours before using video highlights, which are allowed under “fair use” terms in copyright law and not criticising Sky commentary.

Websites are legally allowed to use a fair portion of footage from other broadcasters, after news and sports events, in reporting the news.

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There was also a clause that meant that websites could not screen footage, even from another provider, of an event until the following day if Sky had chosen not to cover it. 

The delay in using footage has now been negotiated down to 30 minutes, provided websites use restricted amounts of footage in bulletin-style reports.

Broadcasters can choose to use six minutes of footage a day, but to do that they have to commit to bulletin-style reports. 

Or, they can use a total of three minutes per day in news bulletin-format at the conclusion of an event.

If they want to avoid the new bulletin restriction, they can only use up to two minutes of footage per day and only after a delay.

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A Sky TV spokeswoman said the rules for New Zealand media were more lenient than those imposed on companies in Australia and Britain. She said more footage was being allowed than had been available at previous Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

"We are close to finalising the process."

She said other requirements that had been criticised, such as the rule that media firms not make gifs, even out of their own images, were an International Olympic Committee rule, not from Sky.

Boucher said the rules as they first stood seemed designed to prevent other media from covering the games properly. She said it was contrary to the public interest when so much money was poured into Olympic sport and it was a huge news event. “We are being asked to waive our rights to fair dealing under the Copyright Act."

It is understood the media companies are frustrated that the New Zealand Olympic Committee has washed its hands of the stoush and is not becoming involved, effectively giving Sky the opportunity to dictate what is rivals can do.

Boucher said Fairfax and NZME were putting a case together to present their common concerns but each would make a decision independently about whether to proceed with sending a team to cover the games, if an agreement could not be reached.

“We are still in negotiations with Sky and are hopeful of making further progress. Ideally we do want to go.”

Shayne Currie, NZME's managing editor said he was also hopeful all the issues could be resolved.

"We believe it’s important that media have fair rights to cover the world’s biggest sporting event – one in which New Zealand taxpayers have invested millions of dollars – without compromising our ability to cover news angles under fair-use provisions in the Copyright Act."

A decision was expected this week.

 - Stuff

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