News Corp Is Boycotting The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

This is one of those yarns that gets bigger implications the more you think about it. News Corp Australia has today announced it will engage in a boycott of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, as well as the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, due to disputes over coverage restrictions with organising bodies and host broadcaster, Channel Seven.

News Corp has reportedly told the Commonwealth Games Federation that it will not seek accreditation for its journalists and photographers for the Gold Coast games, which is scheduled to begin on April 4th next year.

News Corp also extended this notification of boycott to the Australian Olympic Committee in regards to the Winter Games in February, which is also being broadcast by Seven.

The dispute comes from the exceedingly tight restrictions placed on outside media agencies over what, when, and how much footage they are allowed to broadcast, in measures that are – in theory – designed to protect Seven’s broadcast rights agreement.

Under the current deal, which applies to any media agency covering the games that is not Channel Seven themselves, publishers would be forced to observe a 30-minute delay on broadcasting information gathered from athlete news conferences, and would severely limit the amount of footage they can legally screen during news bulletins. Clips shown would be limited to a maximum of 60 seconds in length, and would be restricted to just three bulletins per day.

These restrictions, according to The Australian‘s editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker, would mean that “journalists would be able to tell our readers less than spectators at the events would be able to tell their friends.

Fellow major press outlets AAP and Fairfax have also expressed extreme concern about the broadcasting restrictions – which are tighter than the ones employed during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. AAP CEO Bruce Davidson asserted that the restrictions limit press freedoms, in a fairly damning assessment of the current agreement.

AAP agrees with the industry in general that the current accreditation conditions being sought by the Games organisers impose undue restrictions on press freedom and limits the ability of publishers to provide vital and independent news coverage for Australians.

Should News Corp follow through with their boycott, that would mean major Australian publications like the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph would be completely absent from the Commonwealth Games coverage. That is fairly unprecedented.

Gold Coast Games organising committee officials have asserted they cannot alter any broadcast rights agreement, and will have no choice but to enforce whatever version of the agreement is in place when the Games begin.

UPDATE: In a statement to PEDESTRIAN.TV, News Corp has assured us that they will, in fact, be covering the Games from “outside the traditional Games media framework.” In essence, this means that they’ll covering the event virtually as-normal from a newsroom, rather than at the event.

Solid boycott, then.