Talks break down between Premier League and media

Media coverage of the opening of the Premier League season could

be disrupted after a breakdown in talks between the league and

media groups over reporting restrictions.

The Premier League and Football League have been in negotiations

with newspapers and news agencies for several months over the terms

for coverage of matches. The Premier League kicks off on Aug.

13.

The News Media Coalition, an international body which seeks to

protect the ability of news organizations to cover major events,

said the leagues suspended talks on Wednesday.

The coalition, whose members include The Associated Press,

Reuters, AFP, Britain’s Press Association and British newspapers,

said the leagues then circulated an interim ”access contract”

containing restrictions on editorial freedom which news

organizations had rejected at the start of discussions.

”These controls impose highly restrictive limits on the use of

news content produced at football grounds,” the group said in a

statement.

Among others things, the coalition said, the rules include

league controls on how and when news can be published online, and

how news can be distributed to fans in Britain and overseas. They

also require users of content to obtain and pay for permission from

the leagues for their coverage.

”The leagues have refused to even consider the latest proposals

and seek to impose last year’s terms by default,” the coalition

said. ”These are unacceptable to the media who have repeatedly

made this clear to the leagues.”

The media coalition said it remains committed to the talks and

is ready to resume negotiations with the leagues.

”In the absence of meaningful discussions, news organizations

are in the process of identifying how best to serve their readers

including loyal fans with independent news and analysis,” it

said.

The AP said it was pushing for a resolution.

”We’re hopeful we can reach a sensible resolution soon so that

we can provide customers and fans throughout the world the coverage

they’ve come to expect,” said Lou Ferrara, AP’s managing editor

for sport. ”We also want to make sure that organizations can use

our coverage, or material from other outlets, without restrictions

or additional costs.”

The Premier League and the Football League, which represents the

72 clubs below the top division, said they have been negotiating in

good faith on a new agreement for media accreditation that provides

”an appropriate level of protection for their intellectual

property.”

”It has been made clear from the start that we are willing to

improve areas of the agreement that are of importance to the media

covering our matches,” the leagues said in a joint statement.

With no sign of an agreement being reached before this weekend’s

kickoff of the lower divisions, the leagues said they proposed that

the existing rules be extended on an ”interim basis” with a

seven-day termination clause until a new deal is reached.

”Unfortunately, as yet, the NPA and international agencies have

not taken up that offer which creates the possibility of disrupted

match-coverage in newspapers,” the statement said. ”This serves

nobody’s interests … We remain open to further negotiations and

are hopeful of reaching a satisfactory conclusion as soon as

possible.”