Voting for posters you cannot see

With just about 1 000 days to go to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, South African media fears about the commercialisation of the tournament and how it could hamper effective coverage of the event seem well-founded.

Fifa marketing executive Sandile Ndzekeli refused to grant the Mail & Guardian the right to publish the images of three 2010 World Cup posters, stating that only Media24 publications could do that. “You are more than welcome to give us publicity, but without the images,” he said.

This comes after the local organising committee (LOC) had invited South Africans to vote for one of three official posters to be used during the World Cup.

Ndzekeli said: “Fifa, MTN and Media24 have entered into an agreement to publish the three posters for which the public can vote in all publications owned by Media24. We had to look at media houses that cover a number of publications.”

He curiously added: “Like we have always said in the past, there is not a problem if 2010 images are going to be used editorially and not for commercial purposes.”

Last month, the South African National Editors’ Forum objected to Fifa’s application to have 2010-related phrases, images and words registered under the Merchandise Marks Act, saying it amounted to interference with the media’s constitutional freedom.

In response, LOC spokesperson Tumi Makgabo said the media was exempted from the blanket ban on the usage of images, phrases and words related to the 2010 World Cup.

Ndzekeli’s statements contradict the CEO of the LOC, Danny Jordaan, who this week said: “We want this to be an African World Cup and a people’s World Cup. This [the poster campaign] is the beginning of our attempts to involve the people of our country in shaping the very important messages and images of this Fifa World Cup.”

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad also called on the public to take part in this process, calling it “one of the most important public phases we will have in relation to the 2010 Fifa World Cup”.

But the voting process excludes readers of publications other than those chosen by Fifa, because they will not get a glimpse of the artwork.

According to Ndzekeli, the publication of the images on several websites, including Bua News, the government’s Communications and Information System’s website, as well as that of the Johannesburg city council, probably amounted to breaking the rules.

“Fifa is not a police force [that must] monitor who has downloaded the images or not. If other publications want to spread the message, they can do that, but without the images of the three posters. You cannot stop people from downloading these images, but it is wrong. As I have said, we have an agreement with Media24,” Ndzekeli said.

He then referred further queries to Fifa media officer Alexander Koch.

Speaking to the M&G from Zurich, Koch was more accommodating. “You can use the images if you can find them anywhere, but we cannot provide you with the high-resolution images of the posters because of our agreement with Media24.”

When asked about his words earlier this year, when he stated that “editorial usage of the trademarked words, phrases and images would not be prohibited”, he responded: “We did say that there won’t be any problems with providing the media with images relating to 2010 if they are going to be used for editorial purposes. Nothing can be done now. The policy is there and I wasn’t there when this decision to not provide other media with the images of posters was taken.”

Koch acknowledged that the poster-voting system had not been handled well. “Sorry, it won’t happen again next time,” he said.

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