Worries over freedom to broadcast Olympics

A top European broadcast official says that obstacles to TV coverage in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics are a worrying sign for reporting freedom during the games, according to an Associated Press report.

'What's going on now might be an indication of what could happen during the games,' Fernando Pardo, head of sports for the European Broadcasting Union, said in a phone interview Friday with The Associated Press. 'If this happens during the games, the reaction of broadcasters could be unpredictable.'

Seven weeks before the Olympics open, TV broadcasters are involved in a fight with Chinese organizers over coverage away from the sports venues, the report said.
This involves moving satellite trucks around the city, deploying equipment and clear rules about where TV cameras will be able to film.

China's communist government seems to fear that roving TV cameras and 30,000 journalists might show protests by political, ethnic or religious dissidents, or athletes and activists speaking out against China's policies in Tibet or Darfur.

The Associated Press report also quoted International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge as saying that Beijing organizers were close to resolving the issues.

'It will take a couple of days to finalize everything,' Rogge said in an interview. 'Things are moving extremely well to resolve these issues.'

Pardo, who has covered every Olympics since the 1976 Montreal Games, said he has seen only limited progress since emergency meetings on May 29-30 in Beijing with top IOC, TV and Beijing organizing officials.

Pardo said next week was critical as broadcasters begin moving operations to Beijing. He said broadcasters could seek financial compensation from the local organizing committee if promises were not met.

Beijing Olympic organizing officials could not be reached for comment.