This might fall under the heading of One Of Those Media Furors That Doesn’t Interest The General Public, but I’ve got a feeling it’ll interest you soon enough. According to Jason Morton of the Tuscaloosa News, the SEC has just distributed to its 12 member institutions a new media policy that, if indeed enacted, will seriously inhibit what the media can do.
The biggest restriction seems — I say “seems” because nobody is yet sure what it all means — to be on video from football games. Morton reports that the policy will limit “news stations to clips of no longer than three minutes and [will allow] highlights for only 72 hours after the conclusion of a game.” Meaning: If WSB or WAGA or WXIA or WGCL wanted to show a replay of, say, A.J. Green catching the winning touchdown pass against South Carolina on Sept. 19, 2009 — the game will be played Sept. 13 — those stations couldn’t do it.
Also: No “bearer” of a media credential can post video or audio highlights online, and this would seem — again, I say “seem” — to include postgame press conferences, which I’ve taken to doing from other events via my AJC-issued BlackBerry Storm, as well as games.
And then this (and you knew “this” was coming): “No bearer may disseminate in any form a ‘real-time’ description of the event. Periodic updates of scores, statistics or other descriptions of the event throughout the competition are acceptable. Bearer agrees that the determination of whether a blog is a real-time description or transmission shall be made by the SEC in its sole discretion.”
So what does this mean? In the NCAA tournament, a blogger is limited to six updates per half. (I know because I shattered that restriction — unknowingly, I swear! — from the Georgia-Xavier game in March 2007. The SEC has levied no such number. Instead it’s leaving it up to, shockingly enough, the SEC itself to decide, perhaps on a case-by-case basis, perhaps even on a quarter-by-quarter basis.
Bottom line: Twittered updates would seem to be at real risk, and so would live blogs, which I can tell you we at AJC.com were fully intending to do from Georgia games. (We’ve done them before, as you know.)
But there’s also a weird clause in the policy — you can read the PDF of the whole thing, as supplied by the Tuscaloosa News, by going here — that restricts credentials to “full-time salaried employee[s]” of “accredited media institution[s}." Some bloggers are part-timers. Some game coverage is provided by stringers. Does that mean they don't get credentialed any longer?
The idea is to push eyeballs -- media buzz phrase -- to ESPN and CBS, which have paid upward of $3 billion for the rights to air SEC football, and to the SEC's own new digital network, which hasn't yet launched but is expected to have both free and for-pay-only components. And that would seem to fall under the heading of Jack Kent Cooke's famous Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.
Reaction to the policy, which hasn’t yet been formally announced, is still in its formative stages, but Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News writes: “It is part of a continuing trend of restrictions and limitations on legitimate news outlets who seek to cover SEC football for everyone from loyal fans to general-interest readers to the taxpayers who are footing the bill at 11 of the 12 SEC institutions.” And the News offers an editorial in which the O-word — “Orwellian” — is deployed.
From Franz Beard of Gator Country: “This new announcement that the SEC will no longer permit video highlights of its football games to be shown anywhere but on its new pay to view website is pure greed. If you aren’t incensed, then you should be.” (Interestingly enough, Gator County is affiliated with ESPN.)
From Hooper at Rocky Top Talk: “Those being squeezed out are anybody else who would cover the event in a media fashion, which initially screams ‘bloggers’ but will ultimately hurt small-market media far more than it would ever hurt a blog.”
Me, I’d work up a good lather except for one thing: I see no way the SEC can ever enforce this policy. Court challenges will come from all manner of media outlets, both old and new, and is that the way commissioner Mike Slive wants his conference to be presented — not as the richest and grandest of all leagues but as the most litigious? I think not.
But stay tuned. The brouhaha has only begun to brew. (Or “brou,” as the case may be.)
Why hasn’t Vick talked yet? Because he’s waiting for James Brown
Tucked into Paul Newberry’s Associated Press account of Michael Vick’s quick visit to Decatur on behalf of the Humane Society was this nugget: “The quarterback is apparently planning to do his first major interview since completing a 23-month prison sentence with the CBS news magazine ‘60 Minutes,’ which sent a three-person crew to film the event.”
And I can tell you that “60 Minutes” has long been tracking Vick. I know because I got a call in the press box at Coors Field on the off-day of the 2007 World Series from a “60 Minutes” producer/reporter asking about Vick: What kind of guy was he, et cetera. I figured Morley or Leslie would have had a jailhouse sitdown with Vick, but apparently there are limits to what even the tick-tick-tick folks can do.
Oh, and in a continuation of today’s shackle-the-media theme, Newberry noted in his story: “The AP was barred from entering [the New Life Community Center] and the windows were covered to prevent anyone from looking inside. Eventually, police were called, and all media were forced to stand on a sidewalk in front of the complex.”
Update: CBS announced Monday that Vick will indeed appear on “60 Minutes” this Sunday night. He sat for an interview, according to the network, with James Brown in Virginia on Monday. Also interviewed, according to the CBS release, will be Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society and Tony Dungy, who visited Vick in prison.