SYDNEY — Fresh from corruption scandals and budget overruns, the Sydney Olympics is now at the center of a bitter spat with CNN, Reuters and ESPN over television coverage of the September Games.
At issue is an Australian Olympic Coordination Authority (OCA) ruling giving only Australian media and official international broadcaster NBC guaranteed access to the Sydney Olympic Park.
The other 150 foreign media outlets would have to take their chances in a daily ballot for eight passes to the Olympic precinct to interview athletes and officials and cover news stories, contrary to the tradition of allowing non-rights holders into public Olympic areas to file news reports.
While the OCA says the restrictions are for safety reasons, NBC’s competitors believe the ruling is because NBC, which plans to delay its telecasts until American primetime, fears that other outlets could air interviews with athletes before NBC broadcasts the events.
“ESPN, CNN, Fox and some others simply may not come to the Games,” U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran told local newspapers, which reported that ESPN plans to cut its Sydney reporting team by one-third owing to the restrictions.
Australia’s federal government and the foreign affairs department are pressuring the OCA to back down on the restrictions, after the British Department of Trade and Industry complained to the European Union and the World Trade Organization that the restrictions put Oz in breach of international trade rules by treating the likes of U.K.-based Reuters differently than Oz media outlets.