PARIS — Millions of viewers worldwide could miss live coverage of the commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day next week because the French president’s office reversed a decision to grant international news agencies free access to the broadcast.
The administration of François Hollande has handed two French broadcast networks exclusive rights to the main international ceremony, and they are imposing sports-style syndication fees on global news agencies, satellite and cable-news channels, and online news outlets.
The French host broadcasters, France Televisions and TF1, are demanding that global news providers The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters and ENEX pay nearly 200,000 euros ($265,000) collectively for live broadcast and online streaming coverage of the official ceremonies, which feature at least 18 heads of state.
The French networks are providing coverage free to European state broadcasters, who belong to the 100-member European Broadcasting Union consortium.
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AP, Reuters, AFP and ENEX together represent more than 1,500 broadcasters and thousands of digital platforms.
The four agencies have protested the decision, calling for all news organizations to be granted free access to live coverage of an event of global importance, as has been common practice at similar events elsewhere.
“We are dismayed that the Élysée 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,” said Kathleen Carroll, senior vice president and executive editor of AP.
The global news director of Agence France-Presse, Philippe Massonnet, called the restrictions “incomprehensible.”
“The commercialization of this historic event is shocking,” he said.
The French government reversed itself May 15, despite having provided the news agencies with oral assurances March 27 and written assurances May 7 that they would be granted access to the broadcast to distribute free to affiliated news organizations outside France.
A subsequent request by the news agencies to cover the main international ceremony live themselves was denied.
The decision means that D-Day veterans who are too frail or can’t afford to travel to France for the 70th anniversary may not be able to see the main ceremony on television or online.
A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted that it is committed to free media access. The official said the high fees charged by the host broadcasters are outside the domain of the president’s office.
Antoine Guélaud, TF1’s news director, insisted that the host networks are just seeking to defray technical costs. “We are not making money on this,” he said Friday.
Officials at France Televisions did not respond to requests for comment.
Normally at such events, news organizations make arrangements to share coverage if security or space restrictions make it difficult to allow unfettered access to world leaders. A small group, or pool, of journalists covers the event, and then provides the video, photos or text to competitors to ensure fair access for all.