‘Not an attempt to censor or prevent transparency’: FEI responds to outcry over rules on filming at major shows

  • The FEI has told H&H that updates to its policy on filming at certain shows are to protect broadcasting agreements – and “are in no way an attempt to censor or prohibit transparency”.

    This week confusion has arisen online following updates to the FEI’s social media guidelines at “FEI named events”. Although this policy is not new, concerns have been raised by some that they could have an impact on openness in the industry.

    FEI named events include World and European Championships, World Cups, Nations Cups, and the Longines League of Nations, and the guidelines apply to “non-rights holders”’ such as riders, rider support personnel such as grooms, owners, national federations, officials and accredited media. The policy relates to content published on websites, blogs, social media, and mobile apps.

    The guidelines state that live streaming of field of play footage during the competition and capturing video of field of play footage and posting later are forbidden in all cases on all platforms – but riders may share footage of their own rounds on their own social media that has been provided exclusively by the FEI only. Still images can be posted without restriction. It is also forbidden to film and sell footage or to “otherwise commercially exploit footage”.

    H&H contacted the FEI for clarification on the updated guidelines, and an FEI spokesman confirmed that the reason for revising the existing guidelines was to “bring them up to date and provide more clarity around who can post at FEI named events”.

    “It’s important to highlight this aspect of ‘FEI named events’, as there are many equestrian events around the world that follow FEI rules, but these guidelines [only] refer to the likes of the World Cup, Nations Cup, etc. These are the events that have broadcasting agreements in place between the FEI and third-party broadcasters,” he said.

    “At these events, the rights to film and broadcast moving images are sold to broadcasters, so they have exclusive rights to the footage and to televise the competitions in their respective territories around the world. Therefore, the FEI needs to restrict access to field of play footage to ‘rights holding broadcasters’ (RHB) only; this is to ensure compliance with the FEI’s media rights contracts with those RHBs.

    “This is standard practice across sports media.”

    The spokesman added that in terms of the updates, references in the previous policy to non-rights holding media being able to post some short clips of the field of play to their own Instagram channels have now been removed “to be in line with the contractual agreements”.

    “This restriction, while it has created some controversy, is standard industry practice in sports, and you will find similar regulations apply to many other sporting events,” the spokesman said. 

    “If anyone sees behaviour they have a concern about at an FEI event, including named events, there is no issue with the person filming it. We strongly encourage anyone who has observed concerning behaviour to report it by sharing footage directly with the FEI for follow-up.”

    H&H asked how the guidelines will be enforced and the spokesman said that the FEI realises “this is difficult”, as non-rights holding media can film footage on smartphones and upload to channels without anyone knowing, so the FEI will distribute the guidelines to FEI named events to share onsite. The FEI will request that social media platforms remove content that breaches copyright, and may request show organisers to remove an outlet or person’s accreditation at the event, or future events.

    The spokesman said that the FEI wants to “emphasise that these guidelines are in no way an attempt to censor anyone or prohibit transparency at events”.

    “They are in place to ensure the rights of RHBs are fully respected,” he said.

    “The athletes can post their rounds on their social media, and the national federations can post all their athletes’ rounds. So in effect, all the rounds could be posted online as long as they follow these guidelines, which would also remove the issue of people uploading footage for their own commercial gains.”

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