News directors: NFL move out of bounds

Associate upset over camera ban from sidelines

The Radio-TV News Directors Assn. is all worked up over the National Football League’s decision to ban TV cameras from the sidelines during games, saying the NFL is “subverting the American tradition of a free press.”

The NFL says the news directors should take a cold shower, insisting the league is trying only to protect its intellectual-property rights and is getting in step with all of the other professional-sports leagues. Other leagues don’t permit any cameras at games other than those belonging to the networks or TV stations with signed deals.

In previous seasons, the NFL would give on-field access to the local O&O or affiliate of the network under contract to carry the games. But the league said the footage often ended up being used in situations that put the NFL in an unfavorable light.

“We’re just imposing tighter guidelines,” said a league spokesman, “because we’re living in a new media world where content is becoming available on many media platforms,” from computer screens and iPods to cell phones and portable game players.

But in a letter to the NFL, RTNDA president Barbara Cochran said, “When electronic journalists are denied the ability to report on a news event with their own microphones, cameras and production crews, it allows newsmakers to determine the content of the news, a result that is inconsistent with our society’s democratic values.”

Cochran said if the NFL doesn’t rescind its prohibition on sideline cameras, the RTNDA may take the league to court.