Local TV battles NFL over sideline access

Last March, NFL team owners voted unanimously to limit sideline access at football games of local TV news camera operators. It's a decision that has angered TV news executives with hometown teams.

In Denver, where Broncos games are considered local news, the ban is going down hard on broadcast stations. With the start of the preseason this month, it was the first time in the team's 46-year history that local TV stations were forbidden from shooting a home game from the sidelines.

“This is strictly protecting our intellectual property,” Jim Saccomano, a Broncos PR spokesman and a member of several NFL committees on the subject of coverage, told The Denver Post. “All sports and entertainment entities are doing it … We are in a digital age. You can turn on your phone and see media. We want to do more to protect our rights.”

Local TV stations have overused game highlights or put them on their Web sites, only to apologize later, Saccomano said of local Broncos coverage.

The new rule allows only an NFL pool photographer to shoot on the sidelines during a game. It restricts on-field access of local TV video crews to before and after the game and at halftime. Broadcasters may use up to six minutes of footage of play in game-day newscasts and up to two minutes the rest of the week.

“There are two problems,” Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, told the Post. “Pool coverage is not the same as unilateral coverage, especially where stations are so competitive. People pursue different stories. One station might be pursuing an individual player who's not the focus for another station.”

Patti Dennis, news director at KUSA-Channel 9, told the Post that the team's preseason opener in Detroit illustrated the problem: “We had no sideline video at all. Anything you saw was a handout from the NFL.”