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According to the AP:

AP Exclusive: Networks, Olympics organizers clash

By STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Writer 18 minutes ago

BEIJING - Television networks that will broadcast the Beijing Olympics to billions around the world are squaring off with local organizers over stringent security that threatens coverage of the games in two months.

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Differences over a wide range of issues — from limits on live coverage in Tiananmen Square to allegations that freight shipments of TV broadcasting equipment are being held up in Chinese ports — surfaced in a contentious meeting late last month between Beijing organizers and high-ranking International Olympic Committee officials and TV executives — including those from NBC.

In response to the complaints from broadcasters, Sun Weijia, head of media operations for the Beijing organizers, asked them to put it in writing, only to draw protests about mounting paperwork.

"I think what I have heard here are just a number of conditions or requirements that are just not workable," said IOC official Gilbert Felli, according to minutes of the May 29 meeting obtained by The Associated Press. "There are a number of things that are just not feasible."

Despite the outburst, Sun asked again to have the complaints in writing.

"I just wish to have a kind of document to help me identify the key points," he said, drawing immediate protest.

"How many times do we have to do that?" asked Manolo Romero, an Olympic broadcasting official.

With time running out before the games open on Aug. 8, the minutes hint that procedures broadcasters have used in other Olympics are conflicting with China's authoritarian government. Some plans are months behind schedule, which could force broadcasters to compromise coverage plans.

The meeting in Beijing included representatives of nine broadcasters, each of which has paid for the rights to broadcast the Olympics. Top IOC officials and Beijing organizers were also on hand in what one TV executive termed an "emergency meeting."

Non-rights holding broadcasters — news organizations that have not bought TV rights to cover Olympic action at the venues — did not attend the meeting but also are concerned about delays and security restrictions.

"We are two weeks away from putting equipment on a shipment and we have no clearance to operate, or to enter the country or a frequency allocation," said Sandy MacIntyre, director of news for AP Television News. APTN is the television arm of The Associated Press.

Unnerved by protests on international legs of the Olympic torch relay following the outbreak of deadly rioting March 14 in Tibet, China's communist government seems to be backtracking on some promises to let reporters work as they have in previous Olympics.

The government also has tightened visa rules in the last several months. One target has been students. The government fears many would side with activist groups if protests break out.

The minutes of the meeting show behind-the-scenes dialogue that differs markedly from the IOC's public statements about smooth cooperation with Beijing organizers. In an interview, one broadcaster who attended the meeting summed up the problem.

"The Chinese are very concerned about something going wrong — and so they are in Olympic gridlock," said John Barton, director of sport for the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, which represents broadcasters in 57 countries.

"This is the greatest moment in their sporting history," Barton said. "They've built a stage on which they want to perform, but they are rather queasy about how it should be shown."

"They are suffocating the television coverage in the crazy pursuit of security. They can't secure the event. Nothing can be totally secure, yet they are trying to do that."

Chinese officials say more than 500,000 people will handle security during the games, equaling the number of foreign visitors expected. Public security officials said a few days ago that protests won't be allowed — unless protesters get a permit — with arrests or expulsion likely. Some athletes in Beijing also are expected to speak out against Chinese policies on Tibet or Darfur.

The rights-holding broadcasters generally lauded the organizers' preparations, but worried about being stuck in a quagmire of security requirements. The meeting was held under the auspices of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting — also know as BOB.

BOB is a joint venture between the Beijing Olympic organizers and an IOC subsidiary. BOB coordinates and provides technical services for the television networks with rights to broadcast the Olympics, such as NBC.

Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, told the meeting the issues "can be solved" and suggested the prospects are better than Athens or Turin, where he described some unspecified problems as "irresolvable."

"This can be the world's greatest Olympics," Zenkel said, crediting Beijing organizers. But he said certain "obstacles" are hindering the organizers.

"I don't know who they are or how to get to them collectively, but we must get to them," Zenkel added. "Because these games will suffer and these problems will be presented to the world and they don't do justice to these Olympics. ... This is a big day for China and the Olympics and it may be lost if there isn't any immediate change or movement made by the government, or whoever. It has to happen. We hope the wakeup call is heard."

Several TV executives were upset there might be no live coverage from Tiananmen Square. This is a change from two months ago when IOC officials in Beijing said China had agreed to allow live coverage. Broadcasters also have been told there's unlikely to be live coverage from the Forbidden City.

Chinese police fear both might be venues for activists' protests, which would be a public relations disaster if demonstrations — and police crackdowns — are beamed around the world.

"For us to potentially not be able to do live reports from Tiananmen — the most iconic place in China — is a disgrace," said Scott Moore, executive director of Canada's CBC Sports. "I've been told that to do business in China, you have to have patience. We don't have time to have patience. The games have begun for us already."

TV executives appear skeptical they will be able to deliver the kind of coverage they have in past games. Some say Chinese officials are requiring that forms be filled out specifying where satellite trucks will be each day of the games. The IOC says about 2,000 TV trucks usually go in and out of Olympic venues every day during the games.

These kind of restrictions could make it very difficult for TV crews to move quickly around the sprawling city to cover breaking news. Broadcasters also have been denied permits to record aerial views of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Relaxing the rules and allowing Olympic broadcasters to avoid government censorship was one of the concessions China made to land the games in 2001. Now officials appear to be nervous about it, with TV executives complaining that high-tech TV equipment has been held up in Chinese ports.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing organizing committee, denied there were delays in getting equipment into China.

"As far as we know, the importation of broadcast equipment has been going smoothly," he said.

Any interference with news coverage will be at odds with promises made seven years ago when Beijing was awarded the games. At the time, Wang Wei, the executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said the news media would have "complete freedom to report on anything when they come to China."

The government enacted a law 18 months ago giving foreign reporters "free access" to report. The law has been helpful, although some areas of the country — such as Tibet — are still off limits. Reporters still complain of harassment, particularly away from Beijing where provincial authorities seem unaware of the new rules.

"In Athens we were pretty much allowed to film whatever we wanted, wherever and whenever," said Tomoyo Igaya, senior program director for Japan's NHK Sports and head of the Japan consortium, an Olympic pool that represents NHK and five Japanese commercial broadcasters.

Igaya attended the May 29 meeting and told colleagues she thought the disputes could be resolved. She also raised the specter of more pressure if they are not. She hinted at unspecified "legal-financial" action.

Igaya said China might be forced to loosen up with more than 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists expected to cover the games, which Chinese officials hope will polish the country's image as the rising political and economic power of the 21st century.

"We've been talking about this internally for some time," Igaya said. "Maybe when there are thousands of broadcasters and press in Beijing, maybe they won't be able to keep an eye on every single person. There will be just so many. But on the other hand, it's China — you know the population of the country. You could maybe have people keeping an eye on every journalist and broadcaster. Who knows."

"I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well."

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AP Exclusive: Networks, Olympics organizers clash

By STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Writer 18 minutes ago

BEIJING - Television networks that will broadcast the Beijing Olympics to billions around the world are squaring off with local organizers over stringent security that threatens coverage of the games in two months.

ADVERTISEMENT

Differences over a wide range of issues — from limits on live coverage in Tiananmen Square to allegations that freight shipments of TV broadcasting equipment are being held up in Chinese ports — surfaced in a contentious meeting late last month between Beijing organizers and high-ranking International Olympic Committee officials and TV executives — including those from NBC.

In response to the complaints from broadcasters, Sun Weijia, head of media operations for the Beijing organizers, asked them to put it in writing, only to draw protests about mounting paperwork.

"I think what I have heard here are just a number of conditions or requirements that are just not workable," said IOC official Gilbert Felli, according to minutes of the May 29 meeting obtained by The Associated Press. "There are a number of things that are just not feasible."

Despite the outburst, Sun asked again to have the complaints in writing.

"I just wish to have a kind of document to help me identify the key points," he said, drawing immediate protest.

"How many times do we have to do that?" asked Manolo Romero, an Olympic broadcasting official.

With time running out before the games open on Aug. 8, the minutes hint that procedures broadcasters have used in other Olympics are conflicting with China's authoritarian government. Some plans are months behind schedule, which could force broadcasters to compromise coverage plans.

The meeting in Beijing included representatives of nine broadcasters, each of which has paid for the rights to broadcast the Olympics. Top IOC officials and Beijing organizers were also on hand in what one TV executive termed an "emergency meeting."

Non-rights holding broadcasters — news organizations that have not bought TV rights to cover Olympic action at the venues — did not attend the meeting but also are concerned about delays and security restrictions.

"We are two weeks away from putting equipment on a shipment and we have no clearance to operate, or to enter the country or a frequency allocation," said Sandy MacIntyre, director of news for AP Television News. APTN is the television arm of The Associated Press.

Unnerved by protests on international legs of the Olympic torch relay following the outbreak of deadly rioting March 14 in Tibet, China's communist government seems to be backtracking on some promises to let reporters work as they have in previous Olympics.

The government also has tightened visa rules in the last several months. One target has been students. The government fears many would side with activist groups if protests break out.

The minutes of the meeting show behind-the-scenes dialogue that differs markedly from the IOC's public statements about smooth cooperation with Beijing organizers. In an interview, one broadcaster who attended the meeting summed up the problem.

"The Chinese are very concerned about something going wrong — and so they are in Olympic gridlock," said John Barton, director of sport for the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, which represents broadcasters in 57 countries.

"This is the greatest moment in their sporting history," Barton said. "They've built a stage on which they want to perform, but they are rather queasy about how it should be shown."

"They are suffocating the television coverage in the crazy pursuit of security. They can't secure the event. Nothing can be totally secure, yet they are trying to do that."

Chinese officials say more than 500,000 people will handle security during the games, equaling the number of foreign visitors expected. Public security officials said a few days ago that protests won't be allowed — unless protesters get a permit — with arrests or expulsion likely. Some athletes in Beijing also are expected to speak out against Chinese policies on Tibet or Darfur.

The rights-holding broadcasters generally lauded the organizers' preparations, but worried about being stuck in a quagmire of security requirements. The meeting was held under the auspices of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting — also know as BOB.

BOB is a joint venture between the Beijing Olympic organizers and an IOC subsidiary. BOB coordinates and provides technical services for the television networks with rights to broadcast the Olympics, such as NBC.

Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, told the meeting the issues "can be solved" and suggested the prospects are better than Athens or Turin, where he described some unspecified problems as "irresolvable."

"This can be the world's greatest Olympics," Zenkel said, crediting Beijing organizers. But he said certain "obstacles" are hindering the organizers.

"I don't know who they are or how to get to them collectively, but we must get to them," Zenkel added. "Because these games will suffer and these problems will be presented to the world and they don't do justice to these Olympics. ... This is a big day for China and the Olympics and it may be lost if there isn't any immediate change or movement made by the government, or whoever. It has to happen. We hope the wakeup call is heard."

Several TV executives were upset there might be no live coverage from Tiananmen Square. This is a change from two months ago when IOC officials in Beijing said China had agreed to allow live coverage. Broadcasters also have been told there's unlikely to be live coverage from the Forbidden City.

Chinese police fear both might be venues for activists' protests, which would be a public relations disaster if demonstrations — and police crackdowns — are beamed around the world.

"For us to potentially not be able to do live reports from Tiananmen — the most iconic place in China — is a disgrace," said Scott Moore, executive director of Canada's CBC Sports. "I've been told that to do business in China, you have to have patience. We don't have time to have patience. The games have begun for us already."

TV executives appear skeptical they will be able to deliver the kind of coverage they have in past games. Some say Chinese officials are requiring that forms be filled out specifying where satellite trucks will be each day of the games. The IOC says about 2,000 TV trucks usually go in and out of Olympic venues every day during the games.

These kind of restrictions could make it very difficult for TV crews to move quickly around the sprawling city to cover breaking news. Broadcasters also have been denied permits to record aerial views of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Relaxing the rules and allowing Olympic broadcasters to avoid government censorship was one of the concessions China made to land the games in 2001. Now officials appear to be nervous about it, with TV executives complaining that high-tech TV equipment has been held up in Chinese ports.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing organizing committee, denied there were delays in getting equipment into China.

"As far as we know, the importation of broadcast equipment has been going smoothly," he said.

Any interference with news coverage will be at odds with promises made seven years ago when Beijing was awarded the games. At the time, Wang Wei, the executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said the news media would have "complete freedom to report on anything when they come to China."

The government enacted a law 18 months ago giving foreign reporters "free access" to report. The law has been helpful, although some areas of the country — such as Tibet — are still off limits. Reporters still complain of harassment, particularly away from Beijing where provincial authorities seem unaware of the new rules.

"In Athens we were pretty much allowed to film whatever we wanted, wherever and whenever," said Tomoyo Igaya, senior program director for Japan's NHK Sports and head of the Japan consortium, an Olympic pool that represents NHK and five Japanese commercial broadcasters.

Igaya attended the May 29 meeting and told colleagues she thought the disputes could be resolved. She also raised the specter of more pressure if they are not. She hinted at unspecified "legal-financial" action.

Igaya said China might be forced to loosen up with more than 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists expected to cover the games, which Chinese officials hope will polish the country's image as the rising political and economic power of the 21st century.

"We've been talking about this internally for some time," Igaya said. "Maybe when there are thousands of broadcasters and press in Beijing, maybe they won't be able to keep an eye on every single person. There will be just so many. But on the other hand, it's China — you know the population of the country. You could maybe have people keeping an eye on every journalist and broadcaster. Who knows."

"I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well."

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Yet again another example as to how the Chinese are making these games the "RED TAPE GAMES" or as one NOC member put it at a recent meeting in China "The Unfortunate Games"

We are all unfortunate that China is hosting and we all suffer as a result. Bring on London 2012!

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Yet again another example as to how the Chinese are making these games the "RED TAPE GAMES" or as one NOC member put it at a recent meeting in China "The Unfortunate Games"

We are all unfortunate that China is hosting and we all suffer as a result. Bring on London 2012!

AMEN! Most of the expats here in Beijing (or anywhere in China, for that matter) can't wait for this to be over.

Aside: I had a weird dream last night....the IOC decided it finally had enough, and decided to cancel the 2008 Games and tell Beijing/China to go pound sand, and announced a new "backup" version next year in summer 2009. I think they moved the Games to Seoul... or was it Taipei? Anyway, then I woke up. :(

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If they keep dicking around with the sponsors and NBC that could very well happen! If Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Panaso=nic, Samsung, NBC, Channel 7 etc put their foot down and say "thats enough - no more - we refuse to have anything to do with BOCOG" (highly unlikely as nearly all TOP sponsors already have extablished business arms in China) the IOC may be forced into that position.

I am almost 100% certain there will be claims and counterclaims after the Games for compensation from the networks. I have been told by a little birdy that ad revenue may be down to the tune of 40% due to very few media outlets wanting to associate their products with China and Olympics...

Time will tell if that plays out.

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Well the 64 thousand dollar question is will the networks say "screw it" and pull the plug on the coverage? A lot of networks have sunk a lot of money into coverage plans, but what's the point if the Chinese will not adhere to the deals made with the IOC?

There are still two months to go. A LOT could happen.

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AMEN! Most of the expats here in Beijing (or anywhere in China, for that matter) can't wait for this to be over.

Aside: I had a weird dream last night....the IOC decided it finally had enough, and decided to cancel the 2008 Games and tell Beijing/China to go pound sand, and announced a new "backup" version next year in summer 2009. I think they moved the Games to Seoul... or was it Taipei? Anyway, then I woke up. :(

I'll suggest Beijing cancle it for good as well since I almost become insane while watching all those dramas.

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I doubt they'll pull the plug - but reports are filtering in of imported equipment being held up, many visa requests being refused and I know a handful of journos who have refused to go to China.

Worst case scenario is many agencies will scale back their plans and use the live CCTV feeds. Just ad some commentary. Which will suck. I like the fact our Channel 7 coverage includes many side stories and travel segments, etc.

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It seems Chinese Gov and part of Chinese people have been deeply pissed off by the news coverages ''produced'' by the Western media about Tibetan riot. That may give some lesson to both of two though.

And once again: If you can't stand the heat, leave the kitchen. As Olympic host, you always have to live also with critical news coverage. In any case, critical (and yes, partially false or unprecise) news reports don't give you the right to punish also Westerners who haven't just the slightest bit to do with the media.

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And once again: If you can't stand the heat, leave the kitchen. As Olympic host, you always have to live also with critical news coverage. In any case, critical (and yes, partially false or unprecise) news reports don't give you the right to punish also Westerners who haven't just the slightest bit to do with the media.

That applies to the other bad news, the issue with those visa restrictions. See The Heartburn Will Linger After The Games Are Over

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Well the 64 thousand dollar question is will the networks say "screw it" and pull the plug on the coverage? A lot of networks have sunk a lot of money into coverage plans, but what's the point if the Chinese will not adhere to the deals made with the IOC?

There are still two months to go. A LOT could happen.

That won't happen. NBC in particular, who paid almost $900 million for the rights to cover these games, is not suddenly going to come to the realization that it's worth losing all that money, especially after what I'm sure is millions of dollars worth of ad inventory sold. The only way NBC or any other network would ever pull the plug is if they feared for their safety being in China in the first place (aside from being a cost-cutting measure, remember a lot of NBC's crew will be working from studios in the US as opposed to being on site in China). I think in the end, the IOC will pressure the Chinese organizers to make sure everything runs smoothly or else they'll never have anything to do with China ever again. Can you imagine the reprecussions of any major coverage pulling their media coverage from the games?

I can guarantee 3 things that will happen this August... the Olympic Games will go on as scheduled, media outlets from around the world will cover them, and be it good or bad the world will have a much updated view on the country of China.

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That applies to the other bad news, the issue with those visa restrictions. See The Heartburn Will Linger After The Games Are Over

Visa is quite complicated since the UN warns many times about the Terrorist Threats (And due to the Chinese law, not even Sex Workers are allowed to get the access) , I think if it was USA to held the game, that might be going in the same way for the same reason. At least to make sure the Capital features million people is safe enough, including the visitors.

Well, sth about media bias, I can only say it's always the politics playing around. And to be honest, it's sometimes working for the racist or political conspiracy purposes. At the end of day, we are all human being really.

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I find it interesting that in all liklihood, I couldn't attend the Games this year even if I wanted to or could afford it.

Why? My occupation is a college student. All reports say students are not being permitted visas.

The Chinese may hate the critics, but they have to learn to tolerate it. This line of censorship they are practicing is only going to hurt them all in the long run.

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