David Carlson, President, (352) 846-0171, Carlson@spj.org
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists today sent letters to the National Football League, its 32 franchise owners, and top government officials in NFL cities and states, protesting a plan by the NFL to ban local television journalists from capturing game-day footage from the sidelines.
On March 31, NFL team owners voted 32-0 to adopt a policy that they say would protect broadcast rights holders and alleviate congestion from the sidelines. The exact terms of that new policy have not been finalized, but the NFL plans further discussion April 10.
The Society is calling upon the NFL and its franchise owners to develop a plan for game-day coverage that reflects a cooperative effort with local and national news media. SPJ officials stand ready to assist in developing a fair and equitable solution.
"The NFL proposal is not in the public interest," said David Carlson, SPJ's national president. "It is bad for the public, bad for the news media and bad for the NFL.
"Excluding local stations interferes with the public's ability to get information from a wide variety of sources," Carlson said. "It is patently unfair to local television stations and their audiences."
The new rule would give NFL officials much greater control of local game-day coverage. For example, local broadcast affiliates would be required to obtain network feeds directly, and only, from the NFL.
"This smells like an attempt by the NFL to censor coverage," said Carlson, who also is the Cox/Palm Beach Post professor of new media at the University of Florida. "It will deprive viewers in NFL cities of the kind of localized information they want about their teams and players, the kind of coverage only local stations provide."
Kevin Finch, president of SPJ's Indiana Pro Chapter and assistant news director of Indianapolis-based WISH-TV, said, "The NFL hastens to add that local photographers will still be able to shoot pre-game and post-game footage, but that's a small consolation."
"I can't help but note the irony of prohibiting local TV access to stadiums, many of which are almost exclusively funded by local and state tax money," Finch said. "I also find this part of a troubling trend: Less access means more management of the message."
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.