Tony Becca: FROM THE BOUNDARY
THE FIRST Test between Australia and Sri Lanka is currently taking place in Brisbane and, at the end of yesterday' third day's play, Australia, led by centuries from Phil Jaques, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke, plus some good bowling by Brett Lee, appear heading for victory.
The action on the field, however, has been overshadowed by the action off it, following Cricket Australia's (CA) decision to limit coverage of the game by some media groups, to charge a fee for covering the game, and to lock the gates of the Gabba to the media after media groups refused to agree to the limit and to pay up.
Determined to fight
According to news coming out of Australia, CA, the body which governs cricket in Australia, has ruled that it owns the intellectual rights of the game including what happens on the field; that it wants some of the money made by media groups who report on the game; that it wants payment for photographs taken of the action ; and that, apart from payment for text, it will decide the amount of text to be sent from the ground.
International agencies, such as Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, News Limited as well as 30 other media organ-isations, are opposed to the move and are determined to fight it.
According to them, cricket, including the action on the field, is news. CA wants to control the news, and they will neither pay to cover the news nor will they allow CA to control the news. I totally agree with them.
Although cricket charges television to cover its big events and even though the stand against international agencies and news-papers may stem from the influx of websites and the need for CA to protect their own website, newspaper coverage of cricket is traditional.
Agree with protest
Newspapers have been covering cricket without paying fees from the beginning of the game. Regardless of what CA may say, the action on the field is news and, despite the attempts of some politicians to stop it, there is still, thank God, something called press freedom - the right of the people to know and the right of the media to tell them, to tell everything and to be protected while doing so.
I also agree with the protest for three other reasons.
The first reason is that cricket, like other sports, belongs to the people. Especially so when it is remembered that it is the people who, as members of the cricket fraternity and members of clubs, elect the members of CA. They are elected to run the sport on their behalf and not to own it; that the government, in this case the government of Australia, has spent money in the schools developing young talent; and that the government has spent the people's money (plenty money at that) building big arenas to host the people.
The second reason is that while the media has benefited financially from covering sport, sport has also benefited from the newspaper's coverage.
It is mainly through the media, because of its coverage, why sport has become so popular.
The third reason is that cricket at all levels has been surviving because of sponsors, for sponsors' presence is key. And if the media, if the newspapers are not present, neither will the sponsor's product or service.
Sport has become big business, but it has become big business partly because of the exposure and the coverage it receives from the media - and none more so than cricket.
On top of that, apart from the Ashes series, apart from some one-day games and apart from its support in India, cricket needs the media. Without the media, without the newspapers who report, most times comment, and some times analyse, cricket would be in serious trouble - and CA should remember that.
Cricket Australia should remem-ber that in spite of the many runs scored, champions like W. G. Grace, Jack Hobbs, Don Bradman, George Headley, Gary Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne and Brian Lara became heroes because of the media and, more so, the newspapers.
In the case of cricket and the media, sports and the media, one hand has been washing the other over the years and, in the best interest of both, and especially so for the survival of cricket and particularly so in the West Indies where cricket is under threat from football, that is how it should continue.
hopefully, will back down
The popularity of sport, any sport, depends on the coverage it receives and there can be no question about that.
A few weeks ago, rugby attempted to be greedy when the International Rugby Board (IRB) tried a similar thing going into the Rugby World Cup in France.
In the face of a strong and determined protest by the media, however, and particularly so the photographers, the IRB was forced to back down.
Hopefully, CA will also back off.
What is more important, however, is that no other board, and especially so the West Indies Cricket Board, will even attempt to follow CA, who probably because of the strength of its team, believes that it can flex its muscles and get away with it.
If the WICB ever follows CA, it would be a disaster for cricket in the West Indies.