PARIS – France on Wednesday dropped restrictions on live video coverage of ceremonies this week marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, ensuring that millions of viewers across the world will be able to watch the event as it unfolds.
The French president's office and two French broadcasters had earlier refused to let news agencies and online news providers distribute the live broadcast free of charge, prompting protests from international news organizations. The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse, and ENEX, a news exchange for European commercial broadcasters, repeatedly requested open access to the broadcast for their 1,500 subscribers around the world.
After weeks of refusal, host broadcasters France Televisions and TF1 on Wednesday offered news agencies unfettered access to live coverage of the main international ceremony Friday. President Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and other world leaders will join aging veterans to honor those who fought to liberate Normandy from Nazi occupation.
"Because of the exceptional character of the event and at the request of the president's office, the signal will be available for free," the broadcasters' note read.
French President Francois Hollande's office had granted the exclusive rights to those two broadcasters to broadcast the main international ceremony at Ouistreham on the Normandy coast. The networks had initially imposed sports-style syndication fees on the event. In other countries, host broadcasters usually offer free access to TV signals at events of global significance, or levy small technical charges. The sums demanded in France far exceeded such charges.
AP, a not-for-profit news cooperative founded in 1846, provides text, photos and video on a subscription basis, and does not charge for coverage of individual events. News agencies serve newspapers, television and radio stations, websites and others, often covering events that their subscribers do not have the means or infrastructure to cover themselves.
International broadcasters had criticized the confusion surrounding the coverage, and had scrambled to find other solutions. Visiting veterans and Normandy residents had also expressed concern about viewers in far-flung countries being able to see the ceremony on TV or online.
Before France offered free coverage, the U.S. government intervened to help secure free access for the agencies to a joint ceremony between Obama and Hollande at the American Cemetery.