Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Olympics 2018

Commonwealth Games baton leaves Buckingham Palace for Gold Coast. Courtesy: 9 News

News Corp Australia is refusing to apply for accreditation to attend next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Olympics in a dispute over coverage rights.

News has told the Commonwealth Games Federation it won’t seek accreditation for journalists and photographers to attend the Games from April 4 to 15 next year.

The move is a huge snub for the local event – which has been dogged with controversy – set to kick off in April.

News Corp said it will provide coverage of the major sporting event from outside the official venues.

It means the Gold Coast Bulletin – which is the city’s only newspaper and a sponsor of the Games – will not cover the event from inside official venues.

Bulletin editor Ben English said broadcast restrictions within the accreditation contract were unacceptable for News to agree to.

“The Commonwealth Games’ accreditation contract sought to impose restrictions that would prevent us from doing our job the way our readers expect,” English said, adding the Bulletin is no longer “simply a print product.”

“We will cover the Games as comprehensively as ever without the straitjacket the Games’ authority sought to apply … we’ll do it without the accreditation agreement.”

The restrictions compel publishers to obey a 30-minute delay for broadcasting content collected at news conferences and limit digital news bulletins to a maximum of 60 seconds a day across no more than three bulletins a day.

The CGF imposed the access rules to protect the broadcast rights of the Seven Network.

“Under these restrictions, our journalists would be able to tell our readers less than spectators at the events would be able to tell their friends,” The Australian editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker said.

Fairfax Media and news wire Australian Associated Press have also raised concerns over coverage rights.

AAP chief executive Bruce Davidson said the agency was still in discussions over accreditation, but is concerned with the restrictions.

“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,” Davidson said.

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation chief executive Mark Peters said news access rules had little impact on media interviewing athletes or writing stories and the restrictions were consistent with all recent major international sporting events.

“The CGF and GOLDOC are continuing to identify opportunities for accredited media organisations to maximise their coverage by identifying a range of content opportunities, including the provision of enhanced event coverage and access to athletes and officials,” Peters said.

Peters said GOLDOC was bound by the agreement reached between the CGF and Seven in 2014 and GOLDOC is not in a position to negotiate further on broadcast rights.

The war over coverage rights is the latest in a line of controversies to dog GOLDOC. 

GOLDOC  came under fire when it over looked ceremonies guru Ric Birch – the brains behind the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games and Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony – as well as local bids from David Atkins and Julie Brooks — for US company Jack Morton Worldwide

It was later revealed in The Australian GOLDOC’s panel took technical advice from a former staff member of the US company.

GOLDOC chairman Peter Beattie was then forced to defend staffing after accusations ‘mates’ from overseas had been brought in to run the 2018 event ahead of world-class Australian talent who had also applied for jobs.

At the time six of the seven management positions in press operations – an area of Australian specialisation globally since the 2000 Olympics – had been filled by  foreign friends – including the partner – of British manager Mandy Keegan.

At the time Mr Birch told The Australian it was further proof  GOLDOC was  “acting like a second-tier city, making ­second- tier decisions … I don’t know if it’s cultural cringe, the return of the dear old days of Australia not thinking it’s good enough and having to bring in the Brits”.