NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · FLORIDA · Broadcasting · April 4, 2006
NFL might punt local television crews from sidelines
April 4, 2006 · A proposed ban on local television cameras on the sidelines during National Football League games is drawing sharp criticism from some members of the media, who say the change would effectively prohibit game coverage by local television reporters.
During a meeting late last month in Orlando, Fla., league owners passed a resolution that would ban local television cameras from the sidelines during game time. If the resolution passes a “vetting” process and becomes official policy, no outside cameras will be allowed from game start to finish, NFL spokesman Seth Palansky said Monday.
Restricting news gathering in publicly funded stadiums raises “significant First Amendment questions,” Radio Television News Directors Association President Barbara Cochran said in a letter to NFL officials.
Cochran urged the league’s leaders to reconsider the “discriminatory and unprecedented policy.”
“When electronic journalists are denied the ability to report on a news event with their own microphones, cameras and production crews, it allows newsmakers to determine the content of the news, a result that is inconsistent with our society’s democratic values,” she wrote. “This week’s decision gives no weight to the public’s interest in the free flow of information and access to events that define our national culture.”
But Palansky said the media has overreacted to the news.
“There’s no access being denied in this policy that’s being proposed,” he said. “I think it’s been misidentified in a lot of places.”
Palansky, who stressed that the resolution must be reviewed by member teams before it can become part of the group’s bylaws, said there are “half a dozen ways” for television reporters to cover NFL games.
Reporters and cameramen will continue to have access to the field before and after games, will be able to interview players in locker rooms, and will be welcome at press conferences, he said.
Palansky said “several different issues raised by different clubs and ownerships” led to the resolution, but he declined to share any of the motivations behind the suggested policy shift.
“Let’s just wait until the thing’s passed or not, and it will be explained,” he said. A final decision is expected by August, when NFL games resume.
Media reports on the proposal have speculated that anything from crowding on sidelines to a desire to increase the value of official NFL game footage might have contributed to the decision.
Despite objections, Palansky said the policy is no different than that of other major sports or entertainment events, such as “American Idol” and the Olympics, in which local television reporters rely on footage shot by others.