News Media Coalition – Written evidence (NPS0145)

 

Introduction

  1. This submission is made by the News Media Coalition (NMC), a UK-based international not-for-profit trade organisation protecting Press and news business freedoms in relation to major organised events of high public interest, predominantly sports competitions.
  2. Members of the NMC include major publishing houses, national and international news agencies including (in alphabetical order): Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Associated Newspapers, Australian Associated Press, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, EFE Agencia in Spain, ESI Media, European Pressphoto Agency, European Publishers Council, Getty Images, Guardian Media Group, News UK, News Corp Australia, Press Association, Reach plc, SNTV, Telegraph Media Group and Thomson Reuters.

In the UK, publishing titles represented by the NMC include the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, The Times and their sister Sunday titles, online versions, and numerous regional and local titles.

The NMC is also supported by other trade organisations such as the UK’s News Media Association and affiliates with other trade organisations around the world.
The NMC is however the only international trade organisation specialising in the field of securing access to sports events for newsgatherers (reporters, photographers and news video journalists), access to information about sport and ensuring newsrooms can operate without arbitrary content restrictions.

  1. Points of Interest for Members of the NMC in the House of Lords Committee on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation arise because the news and sport industries operate in close proximity. While the News Media must and do maintain their independence in reporting on sport (both in-stadia and outside of venues), there are high degrees of mutuality between the two industries. Successful, well-run sport events are good for news. A viable news sector able to deploy professionalism and innovation to newsgathering and news distribution generates significant visibility to sports clubs, sports participants and sports’ commercial partners including those buying televisual or digital media rights. At the level of the public, and therefore news consumers, interest in sport, including participation in sport, arises from the always-on/365 news narrative around sport, its successes and failings, its stars to emulate and the athletes of tomorrow.
  2. Sports policy and the News Media often operate in silos, although the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has responsibility across all areas. The NMC has been closely involved with public policy on sport as it affects the news sector; contributing to a past Australian government inquiry into the relationship between sport and news and has contributed to the new 3-year EU Work Plan for Sport including working with Member State Presidencies on relevant topics.

 

The Summary of Concerns for the NMC

  1. When journalists wish to report from sports venues they or their news companies are required to sign contractual rules (Terms and Conditions of Entry), often determining how their content can be created, on which medium it can be shown and limitations on how their copyright content can be monetised. Taken together, these restrictions impact negatively on the economic viability of news operations and therefore undermine how news organisations can fulfil their professional duty to report on events of high news and public interest and to continue to invest in existing and innovative news operations.
  2. Producing journalistic sports content is one of the most expensive forms of news generation. The most compelling news content occurs where there is the greatest access to a venue and least restrictions imposed on text and visual material such as photography during the event and in particular video journalism.
  3. Digital transformation of the News Media industry, and changing expectations of consumers, means that visual journalism has become a much bigger factor in sustaining the economic viability of news businesses and therefore the employment of news gatherers. Conversely, this is where news reporting is most restricted. Without being able to create, invest in and to legitimately exploit their own copyright in visual content, the ability of news companies to run news gathering operations is challenged.
    Last year one major sport organisation, in trying to protect what it viewed as its digital assets, demanded that news organisations wishing to create their own news content had to agree that the event organisation would ‘own all intellectual property rights in all media material. It was not the first example of a sport event organiser asserting that it owned all IPR’s ‘relating’ to an event. This conflicts with prevailing intellectual property rights law including copyright of the creator.
  4. News coverage of sports events can co-exist with official broadcasting arrangements and there is recognition in the news industry that a vibrant media rights market is vital to the staging of sport – and potential trickle-down of revenue from elite to the grassroots.
  5. COVID-19 has dramatically reduced the number of sports to report on. Where events have been staged only a fraction of the usual Press contingent (writers, photographers, video journalists) have been allowed in. Sometimes, none at all. This has created enormous frustrations for an industry seeking to develop its news services to the public.

 

In reference to this Committee’s Objectives

  1. The ability of the News Media to generate news on sport and thereby promote interest in the wide range of sport topics including physical activity is linked to the freedom of news organisations to operate. Recent history – even before COVID – has seen increased limits on media freedom at a time when the News Media have wanted to evolve their reporting to meet the expectations of sports news consumers.
  2. Our concern is that after the pandemic period, normality in terms of press attendance and opportunities to report will not return and may in fact deteriorate.
  3. We believe that in considering a National Plan for Sport and Recreation the needs of the News Media must be considered whilst respecting the News Media’s regulatory independence and editorial freedom. To help inform debate in this regard, the NMC has produced a Media Freedom Charter (attached) aimed at establishing a forward-looking environment for the News Media’s societal role in relation to sport to flourish.

 

 

 

Answers to Committee Questions

  1. 3 How can adults of all ages and backgrounds, particularly those from under-represented groups, including women and girls, ethnic minorities, disabled people, older people, and those from less affluent backgrounds, be encouraged to lead more active lifestyles? If possible, share examples of success stories and good practice, and challenges faced.

Independent journalism is a major driver for people of all backgrounds being informed about sporting events, thereby not only generating interest in sport performance but participation in sport. A single story about an athlete setting a record, a new trend in personal training, a player who has overcome adversity can create heightened interest in sport which can lead to individual participation: club membership, attendance at a sports fixture and a determination to say: I can do that. News Media coverage of sports participants – at all levels - from under-represented groups, including women sport, ethnic minorities, para-sports, etc can inspire participation of others. There is a willingness and desire by the News Media covering sport to report more on less high-profile sport as well as lionise the best. However, the News Media’s ability to report more extensively on top-events, including amateur levels. and therefore to encourage participation in sport, can be impeded at the root of Press involvement by contractual obligations and other limits imposed on newsgatherers.

Q.6. How can racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism in sport be tackled?

News Media reporting on sport has an integral role in dealing with society’s ills - tackling racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and ableism. News reports of acts of intolerance in stadia, newsgatherers challenge leaders in society, government and governing bodies in sport to take action in improving the sporting environment. This is reinforced by leading political figures. Krasen Kralev, Bulgarian minister for sport and youth, recently described the vital role of the News Media in independently reporting on the positive and negative aspects of sport. Speaking after Bulgarian football fans taunted English players during a qualifying match for the UEFA European Championships, he told the NMC website: ‘We need the support of media to make sports popular and show all advantages that the sport will give to the kids and also in the fight against doping and match fixing; we rely very much on their support otherwise we cannot do the job.’

Q.8. What are the opportunities and challenges facing elite sports in the UK and what can be done to make national sports governing bodies more accountable? For example, accountability for representing and protecting their membership, promoting their sport and maximising participation.
There is an opportunity for the sports world to better recognise the value that the News Media brings to all sport’s stakeholders and to introduce more openness including allowing the News Media to report with greater freedom. This is recognised to some degree in the sporting world. For example, the prominent Championship manager Nigel Pearson very recently supported “objective, honest” reporting and warned about the impact of in-house club information, conveying only the perspective of football clubs.

 

 

Mr Pearson made the comments to journalism students at Leicester’s De Montfort University. Discussing his relationship with the Press, Mr Pearson told the students: “If I’m doing a press conference or any interviews, I know the ground rules: I’ve got a job to do and so have you. “I’ve sat in some press conferences and been grilled by very tenacious, well-prepped, well-read journalists who know their stuff.” https://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2021/news/football-manager-compares-club-controlled-journalism-to-communist-state/
As explained above, independent news reporting is central to improved governance, integrity, transparency in sport and in relation to issues of public funding of sport. Therefore, a new governmental strategy on sport should include markers setting out how greater News Media freedom could be fostered.

Q.10. Should there be a national plan for sport and recreation? Why/why not?
Any national plan for sport and recreation must consider the needs and requirements of the independent News Media in reporting on sport. Given the importance of the News Media sector retaining its independence from overarching regulation, great care must be exercised in identifying solutions to the media freedom challenges described above.
We do believe there is a role for all sectors of society (governmental, commercial, sporting and at an individual level) actively to support this.
 

We invite the House of Lords to take these responses into consideration.


Addendum

The Importance of News Media in Sport’s COVID-19 Recovery has been evident since the start of the pandemic. Publishers and News Agencies in the UK and across Europe have taken a leading role throughout the COVID emergency in helping reconnect sports fans with their favourite teams and players. They have done so through their independent journalism and newsroom operations in extremely difficult circumstances – attending sports venues, in smaller numbers, and providing visibility of the wider sport community.

 

 

 Image of football game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Image showing an attendee at a stadium wearing a mask whilst working.

 Image showing footballs taking the knee.

 

 Image showing attendees at a stadium wearing a mask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the scenes, the News Media Coalition (NMC) and Members have introduced innovative ways of covering sport and have agreed to public health protocols including temporary reduction in numbers of ‘Press’ in venues. Where attendance by reporters, photographers and news video crews has been impossible, the news media have even shared informational content created by sports organisations themselves.

 

Actions of the News Media sector (non-rights holding news publishers and news agencies) have provided much-needed economic boost to sport - and provided citizens with early signs of returning societal normality. But the News Media which ordinarily produce millions of pieces of independent news material throughout local, regional and international sport calendars needs policymaker recognition and support.


NMC’s Media Freedom Charter

 

The following charter points seek to establish a forward-looking environment for the News Media’s societal role in relation to sport to flourish and to remain highly relevant to sport and public alike.

 

1. Respect for the Value of the News Media

Supporting the role and values – both societal and economic – of the News Media within Event Organisers’ media policies. This should include engaging with the News Media ahead of and during the preparation of clear policies impacting the News Media, such as Terms and Conditions of venue entry. The ability of the News Media to report freely benefits all stakeholders including event organisers, sponsors, other commercial partners, participants and fans.

 

2. Freedom to Report

No requirement that the News Media pay to report on the news or that the content they create be subject limitations on when, where, how much and in what form it is created - published or distributed to news consumers. Recognition of the freedom of the News Media to rely on laws or other legitimate means governing use of third-party content.

 

3. Independence of News

Editorial integrity is critical. This is undermined if an event organisation seeks control over independent news reports generally, as a condition of attendance by newsgatherers at events or by forcing the News Media to enter into commercial content agreements.

 

4. Access to Events and Information

The News Media must have the fullest possible opportunities for newsgatherers to attend events of high public and news interest – including any designated press or media events.

 

5. Official Content

If content is produced and provided by event organisations in lieu of press access (e.g. if there are genuine issues of security, public health or space constraints) this event material is to be readily available, free, newsworthy, editable and not subject to restrictions on editorial publication or distribution. Official material of this kind is not a substitute for independent.

 

6. Ability to Innovate

As technologies and news consumption evolve, the News Media are to be encouraged to innovate around methods of news-gathering and content publishing, distribution and other forms of sharing news. News must flow as fast as technologies allow.

 

7. Copyright Integrity

No news organisation is to be forced to give up or assign its copyright/IP to an event organisation. Event organisations will have their own IPRs but cannot assert that they own ‘all rights’ related to an event.

 

 

 

8. Content Clarity

Event media policies and rules are to clearly distinguish between content created by news organisations and material produced by event organisations themselves or by partners. When issued, such ‘official’ continents to be accompanied by appropriate credit/labelling in the interests of clarity regarding the source.

 

9. Platform and Territory Neutrality

News content created in venues by the News Media is not to be subject to different rules set by event organisations in relation to the form of editorial use, platform (print, online, mobile or broadcast) or type (mainstream or social media) or territory (geo-blocking).

 

10. Durability of News

The historical news record of events is not to be undermined by event rules stating how long news material can be used – or reused. News content is not to have a ‘shelf-life’ determined by an event organisation, third party or any individual who is the subject of news.

 

11. Ability to Monetise News Content

A viable News Media sector needs to monetise the content it creates to recoup its costs and event organisations should help foster a strong independent News Media. Through their media policies, event organisations are to acknowledge the importance of News Media business freedoms to create, publish, distribute and share content and promote their news coverage, in parallel with a vibrant commercial media rights market.

 

22 February 2021