During the European Championships in Windsor (August 25-30) the IAEJ held its second sub-AGM of the year. We decided that it would be in everyoneÃ¢â?¬â?¢s best interest if we could meet twice this year on either side of the Atlantic in order to discuss several important matters before us and encourage as much feedback as possible before putting some issues to a vote. At our first meeting in Las Vegas the FEIÃ¢â?¬â?¢s new Director of Communications Richard Johnson addressed us and spoke of forging a closer relationship between the FEI and the IAEJ.
Afterwards he expressed surprise that he had not heard anything back from IAEJ HQ concerning the FEIÃ¢â?¬â?¢s invitation to the IAEJ to become an Ã¢â?¬Ë?Associate Member.Ã¢â?¬â?¢ We expressed equal consternation as it was the first time any of us had heard of it! It was only at this point (end of April 2009) that it was discovered that the FEI had issued that invitation to both an out of date (by 8 years) IAEJ email address and the redundant (by 4 years) postal address of our president. Duly, in May of this year the Bureau was sent an Ã¢â?¬Ë?Associate MembersÃ¢â?¬â?¢ questionnaire, a standard form asking for a description of the alliance, a vision statement, governance structures, etc. The Bureau, Jennifer Anstey in particular, spent considerable time on this but we soon realised that the matter of becoming an Associate Member was something that would have to go before the membership to be voted on. Additionally, Jennifer spotted that some statute alterations may be necessary in order to bring the Alliance up to date with its current and future membership.
Which leads me straight to both the main points of the agenda in Windsor:
1. updating the statutes to better reflect the nature of our alliance and
2. Discuss the FEIÃ¢â?¬â?¢s proposal for the IAEJ to become an Associate Member.
With regards to the former, for it took up very little time in the meeting compared to the latter, the Bureau has identified a sentence that may need updating. The sentence in question is: Ã¢â?¬Å?The IAEJ groups the journalists of the written and audio visual press in charge of regular coverage of international equestrian sports; ie jumping, horse trials, dressage and driving.Ã¢â?¬Â The Bureau has suggested that we modify this to: Ã¢â?¬Å?The IAEJ groups the professional equestrian media…Ã¢â?¬Â This suggestion was accepted by the majority of those present in Windsor.
It was also proposed that the second part of the sentence should be altered. I see in my notes that those at Windsor suggested placing a full stop (period) after sports and deleting the names of specific sports. My notes donÃ¢â?¬â?¢t show any mention as to whether the word Ã¢â?¬Ë?internationalÃ¢â?¬â?¢ should be left in or taken out. There has, for many years, been a question over dividing our membership into categories, the purpose of which would be to come into line with AIPS. The IOC, according to former Bureau member Lucia Montanarella, has also expressed a preference for grouping membership, for credentialing reasons, into Ã¢â?¬Ë?Professional MediaÃ¢â?¬â?¢ to encompass those who cover non-Olympic sport on a domestic/national basis only and Ã¢â?¬Ë?International MediaÃ¢â?¬â?¢ for those covering Olympic sport internationally. Discussion was very lightly entered into on this subject as time ran away with us, and thus, unfortunately, no consensus can be given at this point. I can say however that there appear to be strong feelings about this on both sides. The Bureau would like members to consider this idea though before making it an agenda item or indeed putting it to a vote at the 2010 AGM.
FEI ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP
There were around 22 members present at the start of the meeting in Windsor. This number grew as debate on the above topic livened up. Jacob Melissen (NED) made it abundantly clear that he was not at all in favour of any formal relationship with the FEI which he called Ã¢â?¬Å?our natural enemy.Ã¢â?¬Â Others agreed that journalists donÃ¢â?¬â?¢t have the same goals as the FEI and that the IAEJ needed to remain wholly independent. Julia Rau (GER) questioned whether it was possible to establish an association with the FEI without becoming a member. Ã¢â?¬Å?We need the FEI and the FEI needs us but our aims are not the sameÃ¢â?¬Â was a common cry and fears about freedom of speech, censorship and retribution, were also expressed along with the intimation that the FEI Ã¢â?¬Å?would expect a certain loyalty from this association.Ã¢â?¬Â
Richard Johnson, who came into the meeting latterly, did try to assure those present that the FEI wasnÃ¢â?¬â?¢t trying to co-opt us and that associate membership was simply a means of reaching out to stakeholders. Ã¢â?¬Å?We understand you have to be impartial… this is not a propaganda machine.Ã¢â?¬Â Despite a reprimand for not replying by the deadline (the FEI had apparently sent repeated reminders?!) Richard said the FEI Ã¢â?¬Å?wasnÃ¢â?¬â?¢t putting any pressure on you to join. We made a proposal and it is up to your organisation to make a decision whether to accept it or not.Ã¢â?¬Â
The consensus was that the floor wanted more time to digest the concept and asked if it was possible to implement a forum/chat room section on the website to accommodate debate. The Bureau was also asked to look at other models and investigate the relationship existing between other international federations and their sports journalistsÃ¢â?¬â?¢ associations.
There was also mention of forming a working group with the FEI to address the most essential concerns of members which are: working conditions/media facilities at major events. Richard Johnson assured the meeting that the FEI wanted to work with the IAEJ on making sure the guidelines were followed after it was pointed out that there was no point in having guidelines if organisers did not adhere to them. Windsor of course was a case in point and the meeting digressed into a complaint session regarding the provisions, or lack of, for the media in Windsor (please see separate report).
To summarise, proper working conditions and accreditation procedures are the absolute priority of IAEJ members. To this end, after Windsor, Richard Johnson has asked for a meeting with Bureau members to establish a protocol to ensure guidelines are followed, including physical pre-competition visits to venues; involvement in assessment of bids and possible sanctions for organisers who do not make adequate provision for the media. As Kit Houghton says, the navel gazing as to whether we should or shouldn’t be associated with the FEI is a side issue and we should get on with the job we were put in place by members to do, namely improve working conditions for the media.
Also subsequent to Windsor we have asked Richard to write an open letter to members explaining both purpose and profit of FEI Associate Membership. Hopefully we will be able to post this on the website very soon.
I must just remind all that this report is for information only. No voting took place.
All members will be given the opportunity to vote on any changes to the statutes and on FEI Associate Membership and any other matters on-line or in person at next yearÃ¢â?¬â?¢s General Assembly in Lexington.
In Kit HoughtonÃ¢â?¬â?¢s view the representatives from Kentucky did not make a good presentation of the upcoming WEG. The main issue which exercised everyone is the current cost of accommodation and if they continue to insist on these rates ($300 a night being the least expensive) then Kit, and others, are sure there will be a very small media representation from Europe, and that the 50 working areas for photographers they have allocated may well be realistic. On that note if they do indeed get over 1000 media there then at least 50% will be – or claim to be photographers according to Kit.
Again subsequent to this, the WEG has found a solution to the cost of accommodation. Please view the updated information here: http://equijournalists.com/?p=65
IAEJ vice-president Europe