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University of Oregon Backs Down on TV Sports Coverage Restrictions


Contacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or rmarcano@spj.org; Al Cross, SPJ president-elect, 502/875-5136 x14 or across@spj.org.
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is praising the University of Oregon for dropping its proposal to limit television coverage of university football games.

Athletic Director Bill Moos announced Wednesday that the university decided not to impose its proposed restrictions because of public outcry and possible legal entanglements.

SPJ, The Radio-Television News Directors Association and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press were among those expressing grave concern over the restrictions. The organizations issued a joint letter in July voicing concern about implications of the limits, and SPJ leaders helped keep the issue on Oregon's public agenda with interviews and talk-show appearances.

"We're thrilled that the university has decided to stand up for the public's right to know and not put in place restrictions that would inhibit coverage," said SPJ President Ray Marcano, an assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "Others considering such outrageous restrictions should take a look at the example that Oregon has set, an example that supports a free press without threat of restrictions."

The University of Oregon first announced its proposal for restricted TV coverage in June. The restrictions would have limited broadcasters to 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 from then on. The university also had proposed limiting video interviews of coaches and athletes and choose which journalists are granted interviews by reserving the right to lift university coverage restrictions at the university's sole discretion and without justification.

"This was especially outrageous because the university is a public institution," said SPJ President-Elect Al Cross, political writer and columnist for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. "We hope the university's decision this week, and the outcry that prompted it, will discourage other schools from trying to limit coverage."

SPJ has taken other strong stances against limiting coverage of sporting events. In April, the Society issued a statement strongly opposing Major League Baseball's attempt to limit coverage through its credentialing process. SPJ views such attempts to limit coverage as unconstitutional limitations on the media and believes such harsh limitations make complete and meaningful coverage impossible to produce.

A complete copy of the letter that SPJ and the other journalism organizations sent to the University of Oregon can be found here.

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