News organizations and sports administrators on Tuesday signed a voluntary code of practice aimed at ending a long-running impasse over restrictions on reporting of major sports events in Australia.

Sports groups, including Cricket Australia, the National Rugby League and the Australian Rugby Union met representatives of media organizations in Canberra to ratify the agreement which was brokered by the head of Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission.

The code, signed by media and sports groups and endorsed by Senator Stephen Conroy, Australia's federal Minister for Communications and the Digital Economy, outlines the rights and obligations of sports and media organizations over access to and reporting of sports events.

A standoff between some sports and news organizations developed when restrictions on the use of sports news and photographs in the digital media were included in the terms and conditions of accreditation for their events.

“There have been issues between some sporting and media organizations and several media agencies have been unable to gain access to major sporting events for the purpose of reporting the news,” Senator Conroy said. “The Government was concerned that these breakdowns in communication would adversely affect the Australian public's traditional access to news reporting of sporting events.”

For the last two Australian summers, global news agencies including The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse have with-held coverage of international cricket matches in Australia because of reporting restrictions contained in accreditation agreements.

A Cricket Australia spokesman said he couldn't see any impediments to the news agencies covering the Ashes series against England in Australia next summer.

Former International Olympic Committee vice president Kevan Gosper will head a committee formed on Tuesday to administer the code, which outlines the rights and obligations of sporting and media organizations over the provision of access to sporting venues and the collection and reporting of sports news.

Gosper, said moves by sports organizations to restrict access and control reportage by the media were “untenable”.

Good outcome

He said the agreement from both sides for a voluntary code of practice was a “very good outcome.”

“Positions have been properly defined ... in such a way where the media is able to clearly sustain its freedom to send news and information and pictures out to the public, and the sporting organization recognize this is in their interest,” Gosper said. “There's been a clear definition of what is commercial and what is news.”

The dispute stemmed from the perception of some sports that media organizations were profiting from sports coverage which went beyond news reporting, while media organizations argued for access and the right to cover sports events as news.

The News Media Coalition, an international organization which seeks to protect the ability of news organizations to cover major events, and whose members include the AP, also welcomed the agreement.

“We trust that the code will enable this fundamental function of the independent news media to continue to operate without the fear of unnecessary or arbitrary restrictions on their operations,” spokesman Andrew Moger said.

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