PARIS, June 2 An international group of
commercial broadcasters and global news agencies complained on
Monday about access to this week's 70th anniversary of the D-Day
landings, fearing heavy costs to secure access to images.
France will on Friday host the United States' Barack Obama,
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Russia's Vladimir Putin and other
world leaders for a day of events around the beaches of
Normandy, where Allied troops in 1944 mounted history's largest
amphibious assault to speed the end of World War Two.
But what could be the last big commemoration with a major
gathering of surviving veterans is mired in a row over French
broadcasters' handling of the so-called "pool" - the widespread
arrangement under which media groups agree to share material.
While Europe's national, often publicly-run broadcasters can
secure access to the images via the European Broadcasting Union
(EBU), commercial stations and the news agencies that distribute
such coverage around the world said the arrangements for them
were still surrounded in confusion.
"We are getting very close to the event itself and nobody
seems able to give us satisfactory guarantees as to what the
situation is going to be," said Mark Evans, Head of News for the
ENEX broadcaster association, with members in some 40 countries
across Asia, the Americas and Africa.
"This is an unsatisfactory way of dealing with worldwide
appetite for coverage of a commemoration for one of the major
events of World War Two - an event in which people from many
nations across Europe and wider lost their lives," he added.
Privately-held French broadcaster TF1 and France 2
of the state-run France Televisions group at first asked for
fees ranging up to 61,000 euros ($83,000) for access to certain
D-Day events, according to charge sheets seen by Reuters.
After early protests, President Francois Hollande's office
intervened on Friday to say the main ceremony would be available
to foreign stations for free. Separately, the U.S. government
assured agencies access on a par with the French pool for a
ceremony at the U.S. cemetery in the town of Colleville-sur-Mer.
ENEX and the news agencies Reuters, AP and AFP issued a
jointly agreed advisory to clients on Monday welcoming the move
by Hollande's office but warning that many broadcasters still
risked heavy costs. Such expenses include arranging satellite
feeds to retrieve the signal, which can run to several hundred
dollars an hour.
"The best way of achieving global distribution of this major
event is to allow the agencies to distribute it free of charge,"
Reuters Chief Executive Andrew Rashbass wrote in a letter to
Hollande's office dated June 2, urging officials to "urgently
bring an end to the confusion".
"To attempt to charge a fee more suited to a sports event is
unheard of, and a very disturbing development," he added.
Contacted for a comment on Monday, a French presidency
official referred questions to the pool operators.
Guy Lezec, news coordinator for France Televisions, rejected
complaints, saying host broadcasters incurred heavy expenses in
handling such an event but that arrangements for retrieving the
signal were now "extremely simple".
"We are making the signal available for free to all foreign
stations but we are not making (it) available to agencies as
they are resellers," Lezec said by telephone.
"This is the way the Elysee (presidential office) wanted it
... it's free - apart from the cost of coming to get it in
France," he said, adding that the same arrangements applied to
the TV stations' increasingly important website platforms.
($1 = 0.7349 Euros)
(Reporting by Mark John and Elizabeth Pineau; writing by Mark
John; Editing by Kevin Liffey)