- Title: CHINA/HONG KONG: OLYMPICS - Broadcasters in the dark on Olympic media rights
- Date: 17th June 2008
- Summary: GUARDS RAISING THE FLAG UNDER A PORTRAIT OF FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER CHAIRMAN MAO ZEDONG
- Embargoed: 3rd July 2008 03:48
- Topics: Communications,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVAD1WVL3P55CAEYZOHL4ZS6JBU9
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: With less than two months to go before the start of the Olympics, broadcasters still don't know whether they will be allowed to transmit live outside venues or at 'iconic' sites like Tiananmen Square, according to a satellite service provider in Beijing.
China has consistently promised media the same freedom to report in August as they have enjoyed at previous Olympic Games, in line with the requirements of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
But with just seven weeks until the opening ceremony on August 8, broadcasters have not been informed whether their applications for licences to transmit live have been successful.
"The main answer we get when we ask for permission, is that a policy has not yet been determined to handle any journalists reporting from outside the Olympic venues. So ostensibly we are waiting for policy to come down from on high to the local levels, where they can approve applications to broadcast," Kevin Fleck of Global Vision, which provides services to Olympic sponsors, rights holders and non rights holders, told Reuters.
He said broadcasters needed the decision to be made months ago because they had to commit budgets and allocate air-time for Olympic slots, and as far as he was aware, none of Global Vision's competitors had got approval for live broadcasts either.
The problem is particularly acute for those without rights to broadcast the Olympics but who have traditionally covered events surrounding the Games from the host city.
"But unfortunately it's not just the non-rights holders who won't be able to do a transmission from, say the Great Wall, and show, you know, the wonderful people of Amsterdam the beautiful wall stretching out to infinity.
It's the rights-holders as well, who won't be able to be there. The big companies that have paid many millions to be here."
NBC paid 3.5 billion U.S. dollars for the exclusive U.S. rights for the Olympics from the 2000 Sydney Games to Beijing.
At a heated meeting in Athens earlier this month, the IOC played down the concerns of rights holders that the level of security surrounding the Games would not prevent the importing and operation of satellite trucks in China. But Fleck said they were dealing with layers of bureaucracy which made applications impossible and led broadcasters in circles within the Beijing Olympic organisation.
The "Service Guide for Foreign Media Coverage" for the Games says "the freedom of foreign journalists in their news coverage will also be ensured" and a spokesman for the Beijing organisers said he was unaware of the problem.
"As far as I know, Tiananmen Square and other public places will be open to the media, but I'm not sure about all the details," said Sun Weide.
David Zweig, the Director of the Centre on China's Transnational Relations at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology said the Chinese wanted control coverage of the Games as much as possible.
"I think for them they really want to see a positive spin on this.
It's clear this is a great chance for them to show off to the world. This is for them what we in international relations call soft power. It's a chance for China to look good, to build up it's prestige - and also to build support within the country for the successes of the leadership of the party. And so they don't want to see disrespect to China, unrest, massive protests, see foreigners attacking China, those kind of things - and certainly not on live camera in Tiananmen square at the time of the Olympics," said Zweig.
The result could be very different coverage from previous Games, broadcast services provider Fleck warned. He said he thought it will be highly abridged from what audiences have been used to, and that this couldn't be in the Chinese interests.
"If we assume that there will be no transmissions made at all, no live transmissions made at all, then unfortunately the world won't see all of the great things about China, unfortunately coverage of China is limited to, well everything in the world it's always the same, it's always the bad news that gets reported. The Olympics, for every city that has hosted it, has provided the opportunity to sell that city and country to the world. So the rest of the world won't see all the great things about China."
He said it would be an opportunity missed for China and for the Chinese people, and that he hoped the authorities would recognise the warning calls.
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