Australian TV asked to pay for Olympic interviews

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SYDNEY -- Australia's four television networks which lost out to Seven Network in bidding to cover the Sydney 2000 Olympics have labeled as "blackmail" a proposal by the Australian Olympic Committee that they should contribute a total of $2.4m to a fund for Australian athletes who win medals, in exchange for the rights to interview them outside Olympic venues.

The four networks, Nine, Ten, the ABC and SBS, have been working together in an attempt to force the AOC to guarantee them rights to cover the news aspects of the Games, including access to athletes.

A bitter dispute arose at the Atlanta Olympics when the AOC banned athletes from talking to all networks except Seven, which also held the Olympic rights then.

John Coates, president of the AOC, has revealed that the AOC plans to raise about $14m for an Olympic reward scheme which would see gold medal winners paid $80,000, double what they received at Atlanta, with proportionate payments to silver and bronze medal winners.

Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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