Murdoch threatens to pull RWC coverage

A much-touted tourism bonanza at the Rugby World Cup has been thrown into doubt after Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd threatened to boycott the tournament.

A much-touted tourism bonanza at the Rugby World Cup has been thrown into doubt after Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd threatened to boycott the tournament.

News Ltd runs dozens of newspapers including The Australian, Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun. The company is wholly owned by Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation and is in a turf war over the amount of online video coverage newspapers can provide of the tournament.

News Ltd group editorial director Campbell Reid said  negotiations over access had reached a stalemate and cast the issue as one of freedom of speech.

Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden has previously said he expected 85,000 international visitors for the tournament, with Australia providing more tourists than any other country.

RWC spindoctor Mike Jaspers would not allow Mr Snedden to be interviewed on the matter. “It’s not our problem. The International Rugby Board handles media accreditation,” Mr Jaspers said.

Murdoch blasted
However, a source within RNZ 2011 rubbished Mr Murdoch’s claims. “You should be having a crack at him, not us. He’s using a freedom of the press argument, and yet he uses a paywall.”

The source called the threat empty sabre-rattling and tried to pour cold water on claims the tournament would suffer financially were Australia’s largest newspapers to boycott the event.

“There’s plenty of other media coming - we’ve got Fox, we’ve got Sky - and there’s plenty of Aussies coming. They’ve already bought tickets, and won’t need Aussie media once they’re here,” the source said.

Fellet weighs in
Sky TV chief executive John Fellet said the media wrangle was a case of newspapers trying to reinvent themselves.

“I’m the CEO of a pay television company, and my job is to protect the interests of my viewers and shareholders. Rupert has wider interests than me, and I don’t begrudge him for trying to advance them,” he said.

“This is a common issue with newspapers. Online they’re trying to get into the areas that’ve usually been the role of a tv producer. I just think this is a little bit of an attempt by them to creep a little onto our turf,” Mr Fellet said.

Mr Fellet said Sky’s coverage of the event would be unaffected by the dispute.

The barney is unlikely to affect coverage provided by the broadcasting arms of the Murdoch empire, including Fox Sports and its 44% stake in Sky.

An interview request to Mr Reid was unanswered by publication time, and neither were questions emailed to IRB spindoctor Dominic Rumbles.

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