Skiing & Media 101

We get questions that made us think it is worth explaining the basics of how media covers cross country skiing, what’s the difference between writing, photo and television reporting and why does it all matter at the end.

….Once upon a time, when the xcskiing was a sport of bearded woodcutters, it was common for newspapers and television stations to just send their reporters to take a few pictures of them Nordic heroes in action and to do an interview at the finish line.

Well, things changed since then – and rather radically.

These days, the media allowed ( accredited ) at the event is firmly divided into two categories: paying and non-paying type. For reasons of political correctness it’s rarely actually called that but it does not change the fact:

Writing and photo media representatives do not pay for the right to report from the event and, in practice, there is little/no limit to the amount of accredited reporters ( unlike, say, in football/soccer where there’s a constant battle for limited amount of slots allocated to writing/photo reporters). To put it simple, three competing national newspapers could stand side by side on the stands allocated to writing media.

Downside is, writing reporters always get ” the back seat” in the Mixed Zone, through which all athletes must exit the arena after the finish. In other words, selected television reporters always get a first pick on athletes of their choice. Whether an athlete, after a long and exhausting race, would be disposed to speak to writing press after doing television sorely depends on her/his mood and relationship with a particular media/reporter
Sadie Maubet Bjornsen here demonstrates “media stamina” by stopping to talk to writing folks near the exit . Note the front row through which she already passed, filled with television cameras and broadcasting equipment.
Nobody limits any accredited reporter in asking questions or taking stills in the Mixed Zone, but taking videos on any device, smartphone included, is absolutely reserved to selected television crews with special badges. If one tries to cheat – he immediately gets kicked out, accreditation revoked – it’s 2019 and anything to do with “moving pictures” is strictly controlled
“Front row” in the Mixed Zone. Those spaces are strictly marked and allocated for representatives of “rights holders”. In this case, Norwegian NRK is a national broadcasting rights holder – having bought the media rights from FIS’ distributor. Competing TV2 Norway or any other non-broadcaster is not allowed anywhere near the Mixed Zone, that would be a complete abomination!
This gentleman operating inside the the finish line sector might look similar to other cameraman, but is an altogether different fish. He’s a part of international signal production that goes out to all of those TV stations ( and internet streamers, increasingly) who bought broadcasting rights, same for everyone.
Event signal production crews have nothing to do with television stations that broadcast them races – production teams are hired either directly by race organizers or by a middleman
Technical level of television production i.e. the number of cameras on the tracks etc. is stipulated by official FIS document, but some variations are possible. Steadicam here is more expensive piece of gear and is normally reserved for the World Championships

To recap:

– As you could see, the relationship between ski race organizers and writing / photo media hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years. That relationship is non-commercial in essence on understanding that the sport gets deserved publicity while media outlets improve their readership figures. Proliferation of blogging did not change it – as long as bloggers stick to texts/photos and stay away from any “moving pictures”.

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– Videos of races of any kind, duration or usage platform, recorded or live, are different story altogether. It’s a commercial product that is being professionally produced by highly specialized crews, marketed and sold. Any attempts of “freelancing” there are illegal and may cause legal action.

And you know what? We believe it totally should be that way.

Somebody’s got to pay for the show. And when we say “show”, it’s not just a television product that we all get to see eventually – it’s that actual race organization, tracks being prepared, athletes being paid in money ( prizes) and in kind ( hotels/travel) etc. etc. Local race organizers could only cover a portion of expenses and stand ticket sales are still paltry outside some of the biggest events. So, broadcasting rights are there to be sold and to cover the costs, period. Break that wheel – and the skiing will go the way of, say, orienteering – great sport but utterly amateur, non-televised and generally ignored by the media.

So, television is a king. Which is nothing new in professional sport – check out how much, say, the EPL gets in television rights sales compared to every other source of income.

But how does the complex, intricate world of television rights works when it comes to the international skiing? Well, we shall address that in our next story on the subject. Stay tuned.

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