Australian newspaper publishers on Wednesday said they would not send accredited journalists to next month's World Cup in New Zealand due to restrictions on digital news coverage.
The Newspaper Publishers' Association (NPA) said talks with the International Rugby Board (IRB) on acceptable terms for reporting the tournament remained deadlocked, less than three weeks before the event begins.
As a result, NPA chief executive Mark Hollands said that Australia's largest newspaper groups, News Ltd. and Fairfax Media, were refusing to sign the IRB's accreditation terms.
Hollands said the "regrettable" situation meant reporters from Fairfax Australia and News Ltd. would either not travel to New Zealand or would cover the tournament as unaccredited reporters working outside of event stadiums.
He also said photographers from the two giant news groups would not provide pictures from the sidelines of World Cup games.
The IRB said it was disappointed with the Australian publishers' stance and there was nothing in the accreditation terms to prevent media organisations carrying out their core business and covering the tournament.
Hollands said the dispute centred on IRB demands limiting the amount of video that publishers could use on platforms such as websites and on the sporting body's insistence that no advertising accompany online video reports.
He described the video advertising ban as "unwarranted and unnecessary" and said using video to report legitimate news from events was allowed under the "fair dealing" provisions of Australian copyright law.
"Publishers are not prepared to contractually sign away these rights," he said.
The IRB said it agreed to let publishers show selected match footage in online news reporting but could not agree to video advertising as it left tournament sponsors vulnerable to "ambush marketing" from other companies.
"This issue therefore is not related to fair dealing or editorial direction, but is due to the intent of Australian newspapers to commercialise [the World Cup's] copyright material," it said.
The publishers hope the dispute will be resolved before the first World Cup match kicks off in Auckland on September 9.
Hollands said Australia's national news agency, Australian Associated Press, was discussing video reporting restrictions with the IRB and would also cover the World Cup from outside tournament stadiums if the issues could not be resolved.
Fairfax Media's New Zealand subsidiary however said the dispute involving its Australian parent would not affect its World Cup coverage.
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