Indian cricket bosses have banned press photographers from taking pictures of the England Test match series against India, which started in Ahmedabad earlier today.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is concerned that press photography will be used for non-editorial, commercial, purposes by some news media.
The BCCI has barred certain photo agencies, including Getty Images, from covering the matches, insisting that only its own pictures – available on the BCCI website – can be distributed.
The News Media Coalition (NMC), an organisation that campaigns for press freedom, blasted the move as deplorable and warned it will hamper photos available to the public worldwide.
NMC executive director Andrew Moger said: ‘In our view, the BCCI’s move will hit fans and cricket sponsors alike. The BCCI has offered to make its own photographs available but this is no substitute for independent and objective press photography.’
The Press Association (PA) has come out in support of the banned agencies by boycotting its photo coverage.
A PA spokesperson told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘We are aware that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has taken the decision to deny access to representatives of picture agencies to its grounds.
‘As part of the News Media Coalition, and our supporting efforts to lift this threat to media freedom, the Press Association has taken the decision not to distribute images from the tour.
‘Representations continue to be made to the cricket authorities in India to resolve this matter.’
In a statement, Getty Images told AP it was seeking a ‘swift solution’ and was in ‘active dialogue’ with relevant parties.
‘As one of the world’s largest photo agencies, we are incredibly dismayed that an attempt has been made by the BCCI to discriminate between editorial photo coverage and photo and text coverage of the tour.’
The BCCI had yet to respond to an emailed request for comment at the time of writing, but in a statement issued to news outlets BCCI media manager Devendra Prabhudesai said: ‘The BCCI has a policy not to accredit photo syndication services like Getty Images and other similar foreign and domestic agencies.
‘We have no such problems with AFP, AP or Reuters since their text and photo service is for editorial use only.
‘We have already explained our stand to the News Media Coalition.’
The BCCI is known to be fiercely protective of intellectual property rights.
It also controls the India Premier League (IPL), a brand estimated to be worth $2.99 billion.
A ‘public guidance’ document, displayed on the BCCI website, warns against commercial use of images, adding that ‘still images and live or deferred footage of match play action constitute protected and proprietary IPL footage’.
In a separate development, Sky Sports reportedly refused to pay £500,000 demanded by the Indian cricket board for provision of commentary facilities at test match venues.
The fee was in addition to money Sky pays for UK broadcast rights.
Instead, live match commentary is being broadcast from Sky’s offices in London.