Revealed: Olympics guidelines which shut out local press

The chairman of the British Olympics Association Lord Moynihan has defended the allocation of press passes for next year’s games despite admitting that its guidelines made no mention whatsoever of the local press.

Only a handful of regional papers have received passes for the games, including just one weekly title in London and four press passes for newspapers in Scotland. Some 410 press passes have been granted for print media to cover the 2012 Games, not including broadcasters or Press Association.

The issue has now been taken up by Lib Dem Peer Baroness Dee Doocey, who told Press Gazette that it was ‘totally wrong that London’s local newspapers have been carved out from receiving media passes to the 2012 Games”.

In a letter to Doocey seen by Press Gazette, Moynihan revealed that the International Olympic Committee guidelines on press passes ‘make no mention of regional or local press”. Instead, they state that allocations must go according to the following “hierarchy and priorities”:

  • National agency
  • National sports agencies
  • General daily newspapers
  • Sports dailies
  • Single sport or multi-sport specialist magazines, sports internet sites
  • General information magazines and internet sites.

Moynihan conceded that ‘many local and regional papers are disappointed with specific allocations”, before adding: ‘However we are heavily restricted by the IOC and have sought, through a lengthy process, to be fair to the press around the venues, to London papers and to a wide distribution of print journalists through the United Kingdom.”

He also insisted that the BOA had now recognised the ‘unprecedented interest and demand’from the UK press and was continuing to lobby the IOC for more passes, but claimed the BOA allocation was the largest of any national committee and was more than double the number of press passes received by the Chinese National Olympic Committee for the 2008 Beijing Games.

Moynihan also claimed that 90 per cent of media passes for the sailing events in Dorset had been were awarded to local, regional and sports-specific press, and 100 per cent of passes for photographers.

To ensure the allocation process was ‘transparent, fair and professionally undertaken’the BOA established a 14-strong Media Accreditation Committee (MAC), with one representative from the regional press: the editorial director of Trinity Mirror‘s regional newspaper division Neil Benson.

Doocey, who is the Lib Dem’s London Assembly Olympic spokesperson, was critical of the allocation process and believes there are ‘specific issues and perspectives to the 2012 Games which only local newspapers can do justice to”.

She said: ‘No one is suggesting dozens of passes are given to London’s local newspapers, but the provision of just a few passes would ensure most of London’s local newspaper groups were covered.

“Ultimately Londoners are missing out because of the refusal by the IOC to recognise the special dimension that local newspapers can bring to the reporting of the 2012 Games.”

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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