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International Media Heavyweights Continue to Boycott Australian Cricket


Australian cricket authorities are locked in a dispute with major news organizations over coverage of test matches. Cricket Australia, the game's governing body, has demanded that news groups hand over rights to all photos taken at matches. In protest, reporters and photographers are boycotting the first test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Brisbane. Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

Cricket Australia's dispute involves three large international news agencies: Reuters, the French Press Agency and the Associated Press. They provide reports and photographs to newspapers and Web sites around the world.

Every year, an agreement is signed between cricket's governing body and various news organizations. But, this time, the conditions have been changed.

A new clause demands the news agencies give up their intellectual property rights over photographs taken at matches and give those rights to Cricket Australia.

Officials also want the international media to pay a license fee of nine-thousand dollars to report on games.

Mark Levine, the Bureau Chief for the French Press Agency in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, says such demands undermine his organization's independence and impartiality.

"Which for us is paying to report the news which for reasons of journalistic integrity and for our client base we simply won't do and neither will the other members of the news media coalition," said Levine.

The news agencies have refused to agree to Cricket Australia's new conditions.

In protest, they are boycotting all international cricket matches in Australia, depriving fans around the world of coverage.

Cricket is Australia's national sport and its team is considered the world's best in the test and one-day formats of the game.

Opposition politicians here have described Cricket Australia's demands as "an abuse of power."

Australia's Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, a media industry body, says news about a public event such as a cricket match should be freely available and insists that Cricket Australia is "simply being greedy".

Most local media organizations covered the opening day of the first test last Thursday between Australia and Sri Lanka after authorities agreed to drop their demands, but international agencies were not offered the same deal and are continuing to boycott the match.

International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed says he hopes the dispute will be resolved amicably.

A statement by Cricket Australia says it wants to resolve the impasse "as soon as possible and get back to the business of staging and reporting cricket."

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