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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stringent norms for news channels for Olympics telecast

Broadcasters are not allowed to use words such as Olympic or London 2012 to brand or position their shows 
Narrow field: A shooter trains ahead of the London Games. New rules for Olympics coverage in India are restrictive in nature, say news channels.(Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP)
Narrow field: A shooter trains ahead of the
London Games. New rules for Olympics
coverage in India are restrictive in nature, say
news channels. (AFP)
New Delhi: Television news channels in India cannot go overboard with their coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games thanks to News Access Rules of the London Organizing Committee for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, or LOCOG. A reminder of these rules was sent by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to its members two days ago.
The news channels in India will not be able to show pictures of “breaking news” even when Indian athletes win gold medals as the live telecast rights of the Games rest with the state-owned Doordarshan and the private sports broadcaster ESPN. “We are not allowed to show the events at the Games till three hours after the official broadcasters finish telecasting them,” said an executive of the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak. The channels will have to make do with file footage of the participants in such cases, said the executive who did not want to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
That is not all. The news channels that have invested in creating programmes—studio discussions or special features —around the Games are not allowed to use words such as Olympic or London 2012 to brand or position their shows. To circumvent the diktat, channels which have already lined up former Olympic participants and winners for their talk shows are giving them fancy names such as London Dreams, India Mange Gold, Go for Glory and London Mahakumbh, among others. There is no restriction on the use of London 2012 or Olympic Games in the regular news bulletins.

The guidelines also prevent television channels from using Olympic material for these shows. Olympic material includes “sounds or images of any Olympic event, wherever and whenever broadcast and however sourced, including sporting action, opening and closing ceremonies, medal ceremonies or other activities which occur at Olympic venues,” according to the rules.

Editors of several news channels agreed that the rules are restrictive and impede commercial exploitation of a prime property. “Most news channels have spent money on lining up sportsmen and women and wooed advertisers to come on board for Olympics programming. The (rule on) limited use of footage and other restrictions is likely to affect monetization of the Games,” said Ashutosh, managing editor of IBN7, the Hindi news channel from the Network18 bouquet, who goes by only one name.

Sudhir Chaudhary, the newly appointed business head and editor of Zee News, said that although the guidelines were limiting, the channel had planned both live reporting and studio shows for its audience. “The issue on coverage of sports events crops up repeatedly. NBA is attempting to resolve these,” he said, without elaborating. “NBA needs to resolve the sports coverage issue permanently. We understand that the channels which hold the rights to these events pay big money, but sports is news as well. They should be more liberal with their guidelines,” said Vinod Kapri, managing editor, India TV.

For now, the channels must follow the guidelines, however stringent they may be as LOCOG and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will monitor compliance for the duration of the Olympic Games.

Besides, when the news channels signed up for accreditation to cover the Games, they accepted these rules automatically. For instance, the non-rights holders or channels that are not the official broadcasters can use a maximum of six minutes of Olympic material per day, in accordance with the News Access Rules. Besides, the six minutes footage cannot appear in more than three news programmes in a day and its duration cannot exceed two minutes in any one news programme.

Incidentally, the rules apply to all forms of broadcasting, television (free-to-air and pay television, cable, satellite, video on demand, including digital channels, digital multi-channels and services such as “news active” or ”sports active”), radio, Internet, mobile platforms and other interactive or electronic media.

Vinay Tewari, managing editor at CNN-IBN, said the rules are not new. The same rules applied for the Beijing Games as well. “True, the Olympic rings cannot share the screen space with, say, an advertiser on our channel, but the restriction is to prevent ambush marketing by brands that are not the official sponsors,” he said. CNN-IBN has signed up eight former Olympians, including Carl Lewis, as experts on its shows. The channel will produce four live shows a day once the Olympic Games are inaugurated.

In the absence of the rules, some Indian news channels would have definitely stepped over the line, said the top editor of a news channel who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The stringent guidelines are good. Our news channels have been commercially exploiting properties for which other channels have paid big sums of money. Fair use rules had to kick in.” They have.


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