News media are ‘essential stakeholders’ for major sporting events, report says

The news media are “essential stakeholders” for major events and should play a central role in all future planning and delivery discussions, according to a government report.

The recommendation is among a number of recommendations made by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in a new report on major cultural and sporting events, published on Wednesday.

As part of the report’s findings, it was found that existing arrangements for bidding processes and for media coverage of major events are insufficient.

The DCMS committee agreed that the way the media covers major events, and the pressures placed on them, is changing.

BBC Sport director Barbara Slater told the committee “an all-time high” of more than 100 million people having accessed a wide range of digital content for the Tokyo Olympics and 75 million for the Euro 2020 football tournament delayed from last summer.

The News Media Coalition is an international non-profit organization working to protect the news industry from arbitrary controls or restrictions on news gathering, news distribution, copyright ownership and use of content. Members include major publishing houses and national and international news agencies.

NMC chief executive Andrew Moger told the DCMS committee there was a “huge disconnect” between expectations for news consumption and how it was delivered, the rights market has not evolved and as such “does not take into account consumption patterns and the growth of digital platforms”.

During oral evidence before the DCMS Committee, concerns were also raised about the reduction of news opportunities at major events held during the Covid-19 pandemic, which initially saw sport resume behind closed doors.

The NMC felt it was part of a longer attempt by professional sports clubs and governing bodies “to reduce media freedom in relation to the generation of media coverage”.

A more positive way forward would be to involve the news media “as soon as possible” in the preparations for events to provide “a voice and direct involvement in the practical planning”, Moger told the DCMS committee.

The “Gold Framework” which defines the landscape for major sporting events across the UK, the roles of key partners and stakeholders responsible for support and delivery, was launched in 2015 and then updated in 2018, while Tracey Crouch was Sports Minister.

The DCMS committee said this should be reviewed for a new release – and must be done in full consultation with news media organisations.

“The news media are essential players in major events, amplifying them at home and abroad and offering better value for money. Moreover, beyond this purely instrumentalist role, there is an intrinsic value in the free and reliable coverage of major events,” the report states.

“It is therefore worrying to hear of increased restrictions on reporting at major events and that news media requirements are not always fully considered in the planning and delivery of events.

“DCMS and UK Sport should, in consultation with news media organisations, update the Gold Framework to set out requirements for publicly funded events to protect media freedom and take account of coverage requirements from the bid stage and throughout the life cycle of each event.”

It has been recommended that the government review the protections currently offered under the ‘listed events’ regime – which aims to ensure that certain events of national interest can be viewed live and free of charge by the widest possible audience – in order that they are extended to digital content and on demand.

The report also says broadcast and news media can help unite the country around an event, such as at the 2012 London Olympics and could do so again for the upcoming 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The NMC welcomed the findings of the reports and expressed its continued commitment to supporting future dialogue.

“The News Media Coalition commends MPs for recommending that press freedom be considered when organizing major events,” Moger said.

“Independent news media play a vital role in telling the story – whether it’s a sporting event or a political occasion – and we need the conditions in place that allow our operations of information to thrive.”