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1ST LEAD German officials fear Olympic TV deal, Hamburg concern on rowing By dpa correspondents

Germany
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Dusseldorf (dpa) - Leadings German officials have said Tuesday that they fear the deal awarding European Olympic television rights to Discovery Communications could lower the quality of reporting while Hamburg‘s bid to host the 2019 rowing world championships is in jeopardy.

"(State broadcasters) ARD and ZDF are very reliable and a traditional partner of German sport," German Athletic Association DLV president Clemens Prokop said. "Over decades they have provided a high level of expertise in sports coverage. This expertise is unmatched."

Prokop added that it would be "more than regrettable" if public broadcasters would no longer report on the Olympic Games.

On Monday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded European television rights for the Games from 2018 to 2024 to Eurosport via its US parent company Discovery Communications.

The deal worth 1.3 billion euros (1.45 billion dollars) takes in four winter and summer Olympic Games and will affect the continent‘s major public broadcasters who have traditionally covered the games.

Prokop‘s fears were echoed by Dagmar Freitag, chairwoman of the sport committee in the German parliament.

"Personally I fear there will be a drop in the quality of reporting," Freitag told dpa. "There is an ominous background for German sports if it really came to there being less Olympic sport covered on television.

"It would be a disaster if the already not huge amount of transmission was reduced even further," she added. "Limited coverage of the Olympic Games is not adequate for me."

Discovery says it will sub-licence a portion of the rights across European markets meaning ARD and ZDF could yet show parts of the Olympics if a deal can be reached.

And Discovery are obliged to make a minimum of 200 hours coverage of the Summer Games and 100 hours of Winter Games free to air.

But if the broadcasting pair, unable to retain the important focal point of the Summer and Winter Games, are unhappy with what is on offer they could react by reducing their coverage between Games.

"The reporting strategy of ARD and ZDF so far has been based on being Olympic stations and delivering an attractive and popular programme of core Olympic sports in the between Games," ARD coordinator Axel Balkausky told dpa. "Whether this continues to make sense in the future is something we will need to consider in the coming months."

This is something that Prokop fears could have a negative impact for sport across the country.

"For German sport it would be a very difficult situation if ARD/ZDF pulled back on the amount of coverage," he said. "Therefore everything must be done to find a solution."

Meanwhile the decision could also impact on Hamburg‘s attempt to host the world rowing championships in 2019 as the German Rowing Federation (DRV) must provide a guarantee of television coverage to the governing body FISA in the next two weeks.

"I was on the phone with the ARD coordinator Axel Balkausky," DRV president Siegfried Kaidel said. "He could not give any information as how things will progress. We are now a little perplexed.

"The applicants for the world championships will all provide a guarantee (of television coverage). If we cannot do that, we have a massive problem."

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