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Friday, August 17, 2007

NFL policy getting attention...

The NFL's new policies which limit media reports from team sites and curtail video clips to a short 45-seconds have created quite a stir in the sports communications world. Enough for the Boston Globe to run an Op-Ed piece to protest the NFL's policy and to put forth a bit of a warning to the NFL hierarchy on the longterm ramifications of such a policy.

The rules are intended to protect the NFL's IP and to limit web sites and bloggers who are credentialed for press conferences and the like on team properties. Many a sports editor has yet to sign credential forms and will likely make an issue of the policy to NFL brass.

At the same time, photographers are mulling NFL policy which for 2007 is requiring credentialed photographers to wear sideline vests which have been sold to sponsors such as Canon camera. Some of the photographers have their own deals with the likes of Nikon. It surely poses problems and the NFL has hinted that photographers might consider turning the vests insside out if the sponsorship is an issue.

The viewpoint? The NFL’s policy has rubbed the news media the wrong way. The limitation of general access to the coaches, players and personnel during the week is combined with the fact that the NFL Network has insider access to team and league staff far above the accredited media. Now, with the vise grips on the amount of time that news media can run video clips, you have to wonder why the media corps doesn’t revolt and threaten to limit its staffing and coverage.

The media would need to stay the course for weeks on end in order to force the NFL to change its policy. The media (TV stations, Radio Stations, newspaper web sites and Internet sites) would have to explain to fans that their sports news coverage has been halted to protect freedom of the press principles. The media would need to run political-like lobbying campaigns to have fans help fight their cause and to put pressure of the NFL to ease its rules and to allow more fluid access and video reports (standard practice is to allow some 2-2.5 minutes of video in a regularly scheduled news cast).

As a sports media communications practice, I believe there is a common ground in this case. The NFL has taken a step too far. They are trying to crack down on the Internet sites who roll tons of video clips and compete against for fan attention, especially from mid-week coaches press conferences and the like. In addition, the regular news casts, such as ESPN News, often airing the coaches news conferences in their entirety. The NFL is taking steps to create eventual rights fees for all types of access, not just game coverage.

I think the NFL tried to put a blanket policy on areas that need more specific and individualized policies. They need to re-think the issue and ease their restriction.

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