Cricket Australia under fire over media row

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SYDNEY, Nov 9 (Reuters) Australian cricket authorities came under fire on Friday for preventing some news organisations from covering the first test match against Sri Lanka, as a boycott of the event by international news groups continued.

Australian politicians, trade union leaders and media groups criticised the cricket body's demand for payment for the right to distribute photographs, which led to some journalists and photographers being locked out of the first test in Brisbane.

''It's not Australian,'' Australia's communications minister, Helen Coonan, told Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper, while an opposition communications spokesman said the cricket body's actions were ''an abuse of power''.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, a media industry body, said news about a public event such as a cricket test match should be freely available and Cricket Australia was ''simply being greedy''.

''News coverage should not be up for sale; that is the basic issue at stake here,'' alliance head Chris Warren said.

International news agencies Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse are boycotting Australian cricket events in protest at the demands, which they say threaten journalistic integrity.

Cricket Australia has argued that it owns the right to exploit photographs taken at its games and has asked the agencies to pay to license photos for editorial use.

New Zealand, which is due to tour Australia next month for a series of one-day matches, also expressed concern at Cricket Australia's stance, the New Zealand Press Association reported.

''We have simply written to Cricket Australia to make it clear our newspapers will not pay licence fees to report news,'' New Zealand Newspaper Publishers' Association Chief Executive Lincoln Gould said.

FIRST RUGBY, NOW CRICKET Most local media organisations covered the opening day of the first test on Thursday after cricket 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 said he hoped the dispute between CA and the international news agencies would be resolved amicably.

Although test cricket has been played for 130 years, only 10 countries play the game at Test match level and the council hopes to take the game into new markets.

The cricket row follows a similar dispute in September between media groups and the International Rugby Board (IRB) which threatened coverage of the rugby World Cup.

The rugby board tried to impose restrictions on media, limiting photos and video on the Internet. This prompted leading international news agencies and a 40-strong world news media coalition to boycott the build-up to the World Cup.

An agreement was reached hours before the opening match.

Reuters said on Thursday it still hoped to reach a deal with Cricket Australia, but would not compromise core values.

''Reuters has absolutely no intention to flinch on this matter, the only thing that can resolve this dispute is some fresh thinking on the part of the Cricket Australia,'' Reuters' managing director of media, Monique Villa, said.

''However, we are not prepared to compromise on our independent and objective coverage,'' she said.

Reuters SSC GC1230

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