News agencies cry foul over French TV rights to D-Day events
Tens of millions of viewers around the world could be deprived of live pictures of the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day because of a decision by the French presidency to let host broadcasters charge international news agencies for access.
Public broadcaster France Television and private station TF1 have been granted exclusive live rights to the June 6 commemorations that will be attended by 19 heads of state and government, including Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama.
In an unprecedented move, the two companies are seeking nearly 200,000 euros ($265,000) from Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press, Reuters and ENEX (a global network of private tv stations), for the right to re-transmit the ceremonies live, including on the Internet.
The four companies have challenged the proposed fees, insisting that access to ceremonies commemorating a historic event of such global importance should be free.
The office of French President Francois Hollande had initially indicated that there would be free access but later reneged on that decision.
The agencies have pointed out that D-Day veterans who are unable to travel to Normandy for the commemorations could be among those who will be deprived of the opportunity to watch ceremonies intended to celebrate their heroism and the sacrifice of their fallen comrades.
"The restrictions imposed on the international agencies for the coverage of the D-Day commemorations are incomprehensible," said Philippe Massonnet, AFP's global news director.
"The commercialisation of this historic event is shocking."
AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll added: "We are dismayed that the Elysee Palace is denying the Associated Press and other international news agencies fair access to live broadcast coverage of D-Day commemorations, which will be attended by world leaders and hundreds of veterans.
"By granting access to only a few select channels and charging prohibitive sums, millions of viewers around the world will be unable to witness this historic, global event, the solemnity of which will reflect the commitment of an international array of forces 70 years ago."
The agencies have lodged a formal protest with the French presidency and are continuing to lobby for a last-minute change of policy.
But AP, AFP and Reuters also warned their clients on Friday that they may not be able to provide them with live pictures on the 6th.
© 2014 AFP