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News groups boycott Swedish royal wedding

Dignitaries from around the world came to witness the lavish wedding between Crown Princess Victoria and personal trainer Daniel Westling, but three of the  world's biggest international news agencies were absent.
/ Source: Reuters

Three of the world's largest news organizations pulled coverage of the wedding of Sweden's heir to the throne on Saturday, protesting restrictions set by a Swedish state broadcaster.

Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France Presse complained about redistribution terms set by Sveriges Television (SVT) for audiovisual rights to footage of Sweden's first royal wedding in more than 30 years.

Although the dispute concerned only television rights for Crown Princess Victoria's wedding, the three groups said they would not cover the event in any format, including text and stills pictures.

They said SVT, which had sole access to film the wedding ceremony, had offered terms allowing agencies to redistribute footage, but only after a delay and giving no rights for future redistribution beyond 48 hours after the event.

"Reuters regrets this course of action," Thomson Reuters said in a statement. "However, Reuters remains committed to press freedom and protecting the interests and coverage rights of our global client base."

Kathleen Carroll, executive editor for the Associated Press, noted the restrictions applied only to video news.

"But if our video coverage is unreasonably restricted we cannot cover the event in any format," Carroll said in a statement. "No text stories and no photographs."

The global news editor for Agence France Presse, Philippe Massonnet, said the agency had fought SVT's decision so that it could better inform the public. He complained about "the increasingly commercialized" use of large events.

"This has become common in sports, but now affects all kinds of events, especially involving celebrities," Massonnet said in a statement read by an AFP editor.

The news organizations said a 48-hour arrangement of this sort, normally applied to sports and entertainment events, should not have be applied to news events of historical importance.

SVT's director of communications, Helga Baagoe, said Reuters was trying to set a standard which it could not agree to since it had already made a number of deals in other countries.

"We've done a lot of deals with a lot of countries all over the world and no other country or company has raised a question about this, so we are really surprised," Baagoe said.

The wedding is the first royal marriage in Sweden since King Carl XVI Gustav married Silvia Sommerlath in 1976. The monarchy, which has no political power, is relatively popular in Sweden.

Victoria, 32, was marrying Daniel Westling, a former fitness instructor turned gym owner, in Stockholm Cathedral in front of nearly 1,000 royals and dignitaries from across the world. The exchange of vows comes on the same date the princess' father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, wed Queen Silvia 34 years ago.

It was the first royal wedding in Europe since 2008, when Denmark's Prince Joachim wed Marie Cavallier of France.