Big Ten media credential policy draws scrutiny

Media organizations have joined together to try topersuade the Big Ten conference to change its media credential requirements,criticizing the policy’s language because it may restrict them fromeffectively covering the conference’s athletic events, according to aletter sent Thursday to the Big Ten.

The organizations seeking the change include the American Society of NewsEditors, AP Managing Editors, AP Sports Editors, the Online News Association,the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Student Press LawCenter. The letter seeks a meeting to discuss changing some of the”troubling provisions” of the press credentials documents.

The policy does not allow “secondary” use of photos, drawings,or audio depictions of the event, which means any photo, drawing, or audiodepiction of the event taken or made at the event could not be used in anythingnot directly relating to reporting that event, like a season preview orcommemorative publication. In addition, the rules limit any broadcast of gamefootage to “a maximum of two minutes … during the one week periodfollowing the conclusion of the game, solely within regularly scheduled bonafide news programming distributed via television, and [not] via the internet,wireless, or other forms of media.”

Interest in the press credential policy comes in the wake of Ohio StateUniversity’s discussion of adopting even tighter restrictions than thoseoutlined by the Big Ten, said Tom O’Hara, adviser at The Ohio StateLantern.

The regulations initially caught the eye of the press when Ohio Statedecided to publish its restrictions on the back of press passes. After attentionwas brought to Ohio State’s policy change, the university decided to stickwith those laid out by the Big Ten. It was at this point, though, that the BigTen’s policies were brought to light, and the media decided to act.

“This sort of erupted here at Ohio State because Ohio State wasplanning to impose even more restrictions by itself,” O’Hara said.”Since then, Ohio State has backed off on its restrictions.”

These requirements for press credentials to Big Ten sporting events havebeen the same for the past three years, said Scott Chipman, assistantcommissioner of the Big Ten in charge of communications.

The policy, as it stands, has potential negative implications for bothcommercial and student media outlets, said Frank LoMonte, executive director ofthe Student Press Law Center.

“Journalism students are being told over and over again that theyneed experience and work samples in multimedia to prepare them to take on thenewsgathering jobs of today,” LoMonte said. “It’s troublingthat student journalists might be prohibited from developing and displaying aportfolio of their best sports journalism in the name of preserving theexclusivity of a corporate sponsor.”

LoMonte also said that at school sporting events, which are in publiclyfunded stadiums at publicly funded schools, it goes against the public nature ofthe event to try to restrict what can be seen by the majority of fans whoaren’t lucky enough to have a ticket.

Media professionals feel now is the right time to act to change theregulations, especially in light of recent similar events dealing with theSEC’s press credentials.

“Now that this has really come to a point, and on the heels of theSEC battle, it seems like a good time to press the point with the BigTen,” said Alan Miller, managing editor of news at The ColumbusDispatch. “We don’t want to run into a legal problem about usingour own stuff — that’s unacceptable.”

The letter sent to the Big Ten expressed concern because the provisions go”beyond usual restrictions [the news organizations] have seen in the pastwhich purport to prevent reprint or commemorative editions of a newspaper ormagazine.”

In addition, the letter addresses grievances with the strict ban on any useof game footage by non-broadcast media, as well as stringent limitations thepolicy places on use of game footage on broadcast media.

“The point is; somebody’s got to draw the line here.”O’Hara said. “Otherwise, the line is going to keep moving until allyou’re going to be able to do is publish one photo and a boxscore.”