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NAB Board Vows To Fight To Retain Broadcast Sports

The National Association of Broadcasters is taking aim at the move of the college football Bowl Championship Series from broadcast TV to cable's ESPN.

The NAB Board voted Tuesday to adopt a resolution advocating "free access to major televised sporting events."

That came in the wake of the decision by Fox last week to drop out of contention to retain the broadcast rights to the BCS games.

ESPN grabbed four-year rights

for $495 million after incumbent Fox passed. Fox had offered $385 million.

"Broadcasters continue to support the rights of all Americans to have free access to telecasts of major sporting events, particularly those of publicly funded educational institutions," the resolution said.

Sports siphoning was a big issue in Washington a decade or so ago. The FCC considers sports must-have programming for which there is no easy substitution. Meanwhile, legislators have made noise about NFL Network and college football games, and hometown Major League Baseball games their constituents couldn't receive due to rights disagreements and/or rights deals.

But Neal Pilson, currently a consultant and formerly head of CBS sports,

doesn't see legislators rushing to hammer cable over the deal

. "I think Washington has other problems to deal with,” he told B&C last week after the BCS deal was announced.

Besides, he said, "ESPN is in 90 million homes out of a total of about 112 million, and there just doesn't seem to be much reaction now."

The one-time broadcast staple of Monday Night Football, for example, moved to cable several years back with nary a discouraging word from inside the Beltway.

"I don't see the Super Bowl any time soon," Pilson says, or the World Series or NCAA basketball tournament. But he sees other "major" events possibly moving to cable.

Not if NAB can help it. "The NAB Television Board of Directors hereby directs NAB staff to work with policymakers to educate them on the importance of ensuring that no segments of society are disenfranchised from this highly valued programming," the board resolved.