Americans may not see D-Day commemoration live


A man wearing a WWII U.S. soldier uniform stands on the Vierville-sur-Mer beach, one of the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy, on Monday. (AFP photo/Joel Saget)

UPDATE: Crisis averted. The AP announced Wednesday afternoon that France lifted its restrictions on D-day coverage: “After representations from AP, Reuters, AFP and ENEX, the Elysee today announced that due to the “exceptional character” of the event, the President of the French Republic has requested the French Pool allow agencies to distribute the event.”

Monday’s original story:

President Obama,  whose entourage may or may not total about 900 people  — will attend the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day this week. But unless you are also going to be on the beaches of Normandy, France, there’s an outside chance that Americans won’t see live footage of the ceremony here at home.

Seems the French government gave two of its own broadcast networks exclusive rights to cover the ceremony, and all other news outlets must get footage from them. Last week the two French broadcasters, France Televisions and TF1, said they would charge the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and ENEX together more than a quarter of a million dollars to obtain the feed in real time.

On Monday the news agencies were still fighting for free access to carry the live event. But despite making some headway, as of now, there is still a charge for live-broadcasting the international event outside of France. Arranging satellite feeds can cost several hundred dollars an hour, according to Reuters.

“The agencies welcome the announcement by the Elysee that the main ceremony will now be made available free of charge to all television broadcasters,” the AP told its video subscribers. “AP, Reuters, AFP and ENEX maintain that allowing the news agencies to distribute the material free of charge to all subscribers remains the best way of achieving global distribution of this important event.”

“Reuters is committed to providing coverage of events of global importance to our subscribers around the world and will continue to press the Élysée and its French broadcast partners for free and unrestricted access to the main international D-Day ceremony,” a Reuters spokesperson concurred in an e-mail.

Leaders from around the world will convene for the remembrance. If you were hoping to catch a glimpse of an awkward face-to-face between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, you may have to settle for just reading about it later.

But, more important, until this all gets straightened out, the last surviving World War II veterans who fought in the Normandy invasion might not be able to watch the event that honors them in real time.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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