Online Media Limits Threaten Coverage On Eve Of Rugby World Cup

The International Rugby Board (IRB) is still playing hard ball with an international coalition of newspapers and news agencies that is challenging strict new rules on how the Rugby World Cup can be covered online. A campaign numbering almost 40 publishers – including Reuters, AP and the Mirror Group – has for months grumbled at IRB threats to deny accreditation if editors did not comply with new regulations.

The Worldwide Association of Newspapers (WAN) said it had won concessions to increase the maximum photos allowed online per half from five to 20, to drop the a rule barring headlines that run over images and to again allow re-sale of photos. But the IRB is still adamant on retaining worldwide, lifelong re-use of media’s match photographs and is severely limiting the duration of audio and video that can be included on websites, the companies said.

The IRB’s concerns arose because online media, with unlimited space and near-immediate publishing, could theoretically string together still images to provide near-live, video-esque coverage – just the kind of thing to ruin multi-million pound exclusive broadcast deals the IRB has struck with the likes of ITV. Now there are just two days before the two-month tournament kicks off in France, and the host nation’s Agence France Presse (AFP) agency has threatened to pull out (via SJA).

WAN statement:The IRB said its greatest concern was that photographic stills on the web might be used for quasi-broadcast and news media organisations had sought to reassure them on that front. However, the IRB insists on arbitrary quotas for stills on websites during a game. Editors must be free to adapt to changes in public habits in consuming the news.”