MEPs Vote for Press Freedom in Sports Coverage

MEPS voted today, 8 May, on a White Paper that recognises the importance of sports journalism in Europe.
Several MEPs had proposed amendments to the Mavrommatis report on sport which would  have severely limited severely limit the freedom of the news media to report freely for the enjoyment of their readers across Europe. Following a call by news media and journalist organisations (EPC, ENPA, EFJ and NMC) for Members of the European Parliament to protect the freedom of the press and the rights of the public to be informed about major sporting events, MEPs  rejected harmful amendments and voted today as follows: 
MEPs voted in favour of the amendment to paragraph 70 (number 12) which seeks to create a balance between the interests of the sports organisations and the role of the press in reporting on sporting events.
MEPs voted in line with news media and journalist’s concerns for paragraphs 64 and 68 (therefore acknowledging that “sports copyright” is an invented right), but unfortunately voted for an amendment in paragraph 65 which appears to discriminate against news media in favour of audiovisual media.
EPC Chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemao said: “As news organisations with large, sports-hungry audiences and readers, we are relieved and delighted that the European Parliament has largely rejected moves to empower sports events organisers to the detriment of press freedom and ultimately of the public.”
ENPA President Valdo Lehari jr., who led recently-concluded negotiations with UEFA on Euro2008 ATCs added: “We are satisfied that by rejecting two potentially dangerous amendments, the European Parliament has recognised the unique role of the media to access and report on sports events on events of significant public interest.”
The EFJ chair Arne König said: “ Today’s vote in the European Parliament is a great victory for journalism. It is in the public interest to make sure that journalists report freely on sports events. Introducing a new intellectual property rights for sports events organisers would have been a great step backwards for press freedom”.

The EPC, ENPA, the EFJ and the NMC are keen to stress that the right of sporting bodies to manage, commercialise and benefit from the success of their sports in not in question, and their achievements in doing so have been remarkable and notable in the past few years. However, the role of the media in that success is also significant with no evidence of any detrimental effect on a sport from any media coverage. Furthermore the current legal framework of copyright and contract law is robust and comprehensive and provides the necessary tools for sports event organisers and the media to negotiate and then implement a balanced and fair agreement. 
A spokesman for the NMC said: “There was never any case for a change in the law, and the changes proposed would have represented a serious reduction not only in the freedom of the press but also the freedom of individuals within society to learn about, understand and be entertained by sport without undue interference.”
Details on the amendments in question are in the “Note to Editors”.

Angela Mills Wade, European Publishers Council, Tel: +44 1865 310 732; [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]> 
Valtteri Niiranen, European Newspaper Publishers Association, Tel: +32 2  551 0190; [email protected]<mailto:[email protected]> 

Pamela Morinière, European Federation of Journalists,
Tel: +32 2 235 2216; [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> 
Andrew Moger, New Media Coalition, Tel +44 7836 572273; [email protected]