By: MARK FITZGERALD
OR A HALF-BILLION dollars, NBC Sports is not only getting exclusive broadcasting rights to the Summer Olympics in Atlanta ? it’s getting a head start on news coverage, as well.
Just as in past Olympics, live coverage of news conferences is restricted to the network awarded the right to broadcast the sporting contests. In Atlanta, NBC paid $456 million for the privilege.
“In situations where we’ve guaranteed exclusive rights, we’ve tried to add a little advantage by giving the rights-holding broadcaster a little edge. . . . For $456 million, it seems to be that a 30-minute edge is not that unreasonable at all,” Richard Pound, head of the International Olympic Committee’s Radio and Television Commission, said in a recent Washington Post article by Leonard Shapiro.
The Society of Professional Journalists says it is a tradition that should stop.
“Access to participants in the competition should in no way be limited by the size of the check a reporter’s boss is willing to write,” SPJ President G. Kelly Hawes wrote in a letter to Pound.
Hawes asked the IOC to rethink the policy, which he called “an injustice to the athletes and to their supporters.”
“Limiting live coverage of news conferences to the network holding broadcast rights is clearly going too far in seeking to protect the interests of the high bidder. News does not happen on a tape-delayed basis, and news conferences should be no exception to the rule,” wrote Hawes, who is also city editor of the Muncie (Ind.) Star.
Pound was unavailable for comment.