Web sites seek more freedom to broadcast Olympics

By ANICK JESDANUN

Associated Press

NEW YORK – Many of the world’s leading media organizations are demanding greater freedom to broadcast the Olympics on the Web following the blanket Internet ban of the Sydney Games.

To protect NBC and others with television rights, Olympic officials prevented Web sites from offering even short audio reports. So while CBS could run highlights on its TV news programs after NBC’s broadcast day ended, the CBS Sportsline Web site could not.

“It’s shortsighted,” said Joe Ferreira, Sportsline’s vice president of programming. “They either don’t understand the Internet or don’t know the Internet is legitimate media.”

Reporters from MSNBC.com and several other Web sites were forced to get media credentials through their parent company. FoxSports.com reporters covered events by buying tickets or watching them on TV.

Olympic organizers even hired a London company to police the Net, fearing online coverage would interfere with broadcast contracts awarded by region. NBC paid $4 billion for exclusive U.S. rights to the Olympics through 2008, including $705 million for the Sydney Games that concluded Sunday.

The ban meant MSNBC.com could not run footage, despite ties with NBC. And NBCOlympics.com, the NBC online joint venture with Quokka Sports, used only still images from television feeds.

The International Olympic Committee rules prompted such major news outlets as the British Broadcasting Corp., which had broadcast rights at home, to stop posting radio bulletins online.

Franklin Servan-Schriber, the IOC’S director of new media, said organizers will likely change Internet policies before the Winter Games in Salt Lake City 16 months from now. He would not elaborate.

For the 2004 Summer Games in Athens and beyond, Servan-Schriber said, broadcast and Internet rights are separate.

For sports fan Gary Gluckman, the restrictions meant he could not see U.S. sprinter Marion Jones win her first gold medal Sept. 23 or watch highlights online because he was working when the games were televised.

“People are expecting nowadays to be able to watch important events on the Internet,” said Gluckman, 30, of Stony Brook, N.Y. “The world is changing, and they have to change with it.”

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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