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NFL Sideline Camera Ban Draws Protests

The National Football League’s decision to bar camera crews from local stations from the sidelines is drawing protest from industry groups.   

The league’s 32 team owners voted to ban station photojournalists, who have been allowed to shoot during the games.

The NFL told the National Press Photographers Association the move is to protect exclusive NFL video from unauthorized use on the Internet. The league, however, is notoriously tight-fisted about controlling its image and limiting the sources of video, which also allows it to control post-game interviews and any antics during games.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association is urging the league to reconsider in the name of free press. “The National Football League should not be in a position of subverting the American tradition of free press,” RTNDA President Barbara Cochran said in a letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. She called the ban a “discriminatory and unprecedented policy.”

The ban, she says, undercuts stations’ abilities to serve their local communities.

Several local station managers say they’d been hearing rumblings for the last several seasons that the NFL would limit access.
The new rule means affiliates will have to get video footage from network feeds or directly from the NFL, which shoots most games for its NFL Films archives. However, it appears that stations will still have some access at games.