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India-England series hit by coverage blackout

Agencies refuse to file stories, pictures amid dispute with BCCI

Gulf News

New Delhi: International news agencies suspended coverage of the Test series between India and England starting Thursday after Indian cricket authorities refused to lift restrictions on photo agencies.

News outlets including Agence France-Presse said they would not be filing any text or pictures from the four-match series after the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) barred photo agencies such as Getty Images and Action Images.

English media organisations such as the Daily Telegraph and the Press Association also said they would support the protest.

“AFP deeply regrets the suspension of coverage of this important Test series as cricket fans will be deprived of stories and photos of the game they love,” the agency’s global news director Philippe Massonnet said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the BCCI has chosen to substitute objective editorial coverage with in-house photography, a dangerous principle that AFP, like other international news agencies, simply cannot accept.”

While the BCCI has only withheld accreditation from photo-only agencies, other news organisations fear the move sets a dangerous precedent.

The BCCI is to make a limited number of its own images available during the series, which began in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

The News Media Coalition, which represents a group of media organisations, has been leading the discussions with the BCCI.

It said other agencies including Reuters and the Associated Press had decided to halt their coverage in text and photo, before the British press added their voice to the protests.

“Editors will be angered by this decision of the BCCI and confused by the motives,” said Bob Satchwell, executive director of Britain’s Society of Editors.

“They just want to do the best job they can for their cricket-loving readers by choosing from the best news material. By damaging the ability of the press to cover cricket, the good name of the game also risks damage.”

There was no immediate comment from the BCCI on Thursday.

However, BCCI media manager Devendra Prabhudesai said on Tuesday that the board was not seeking to bar news agencies.

“The BCCI has a policy not to accredit photo syndication services like Getty Images and other similar foreign and domestic agencies,” he told AFP.

“We have no such problems with AFP, AP or Reuters since their text and photo service is for editorial use only. We have already explained our stand to the News Media Coalition.”

The build-up to the series has been dogged by disputes by the BCCI and media organisations.

Satellite broadcaster Sky, which holds the British rights to the series, is set to commentate from its London headquarters off a live picture feed rather than pay a reported additional £500,000 ($795,000) to the BCCI.

The BBC, however, has reached an agreement with the BCCI to broadcast live from the venues after the Indian board reportedly demanded an extra £50,000 in addition to the already-agreed fee for the rights to cover broadcast costs.