|NMU||OREGON||Prior Restraints||Aug 9, 2001|
University abandons plan to close media access to athletic events
- Opposition from local and national media organizations assisted in policy shift.
University of Oregon Athletics Director Bill Moos announced on Aug. 8 that the university would not implement a policy that limited media access to athletic events.
The university had previously proposed rules that provided that television broadcasters may air no more than 20 seconds of game highlights for 48 hours after a game, 30 seconds of highlights for a week after the game, and no video highlights afterward. The rules would similarly have limited video interviews of coaches and athletes. In addition, university officials would have been given the power to discriminate among journalists by lifting restrictions at their sole discretion, without justification. Any station that defied the rule would be denied access to future events.
ESPN and KEZI-TV, broadcasters who had bought rights to the events, presumably would not have such limitations imposed upon them.
The plan was opposed by media organizations such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. In a letter to university officials, the groups stated that such restrictions were unconstitutional and unacceptable. “By asking electronic journalists to agree to such restrictions before they are permitted to cover University of Oregon athletics, you are asking them to forfeit control of their newscasts, a result we simply cannot accept.”
The letter also noted the danger inherent in the proposed rule.
“By requiring news organizations to agree to significant time and content restrictions as a condition of reporting news from certain sporting events, they would permit the newsmakers to become the exclusive news providers. Such a result is anathema to the role of a free press in our democratic society.”
© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press