NAB Chief to NFL Chief: Let Our Cameras Go!

David Rehr welcomed National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell this week by asking him to please reconsider banning local TV crews from the sidelines of NFL games. Rehr, chief of the National Association of Broadcasters, sent Goodell a letter bemoaning the ban, initiated by NFL owners earlier this year.

"In order to differentiate their coverage from higher budget national broadcast and cable sport shows, local broadcasters must provide their viewers with unique and highly local stories," Rehr wrote. "Those stories may include coverage of a particular player, or defensive scheme, that may be difficult to delineate from network or low-angle pool video. For local broadcasters working on a limited budget, outsourcing coverage to NFL Films is not a viable option. Without the opportunity to shoot their own video, local broadcasters will scale back coverage of NFL games, and may be forced to cancel shows dedicated to local NFL teams. Over time, this decrease in exposure will affect ticket sales.

"Also, because the ban is limited to local television broadcasters, and not other journalists, it raises serious legal questions. Considering that many NFL stadiums are taxpayer funded, the may run afoul of laws requiring reasonable and equal access at otherwise public forums."

NFL surprised local stations in March by kicking local camera operators and still shooters off the sidelines. The ban allowed only broadcast-rights holders to shoot sideline footage. The NFL at the time justified the ban by saying some stations were posting sideline video on the Web--an apparent no-no. Since establishing its own production company, NFL Films, and its own cable net, NFL Network, the league has become more solicitous of how footage is used. The cable network is also currently in a carriage flap with Time Warner Cable, which is pushing to relegate it to a sports tier.