News organizations object to Big Ten coverage restrictions

Six news organizations sent a letter last week to the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference protesting provisions of the athletic conference’s 2009 press credentials policy that they say will restrict how journalists cover conference sports.

The groups, which include the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said they have received complaints from members regarding provisions of the conference’s 2009 press credentials that “will prevent media from imparting the necessary news and sports coverage their readers and viewers have come to expect,” the letter said.

The organizations called on Big Ten Commissioner James Delany to participate in “an open and frank discussion” regarding the credentialing document. Acknowledging that the particulars of how sports are presented and covered change over time, the groups said there is “no reason to drastically alter a relationship that has proven so mutually beneficial since 1896.”

The authors of the letter, which include leaders from the RTNDA, the American Society of News Editors, AP Sports Editors, AP Managing Editors, the Online News Association and the Student Press Law Center, identified three provisions in particular as being troublesome.

The groups objected to:

  • an apparent ban on secondary use of content in any format, including editorial purposes;
  • a ban on using game footage video by non-broadcast media and placing strict controls on broadcast media allowing use of only two minutes of video of game footage in a bona fide news program in only the week following the event without audio; and
  • the general prohibition on violations of member school or Big Ten Conference trademarks, copyright and other property rights, which the authors recognize, but should not mean a concession of “any rights in works created by our members’ photographers, videographers or reporters.”

In a press statement, RTNDA Chairman Stacey Woelfel said “unfettered coverage” builds the popularity of teams and conferences. According to Woelfel, “RTNDA hopes that the commissioner will take this opportunity to address these concerns and help create a set of credentials that will allow coverage of Big Ten events that will encourage fans to continue to follow the conference."