I would have to guess that most anyone with a high school diploma read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 at some point in time. It's not the most fun book to read but it does, in a roundabout fashion, warn its readers against the dangers of censorship and the relinquishment of control to authority in general. Well apparently, the thinktank that put together the SEC's new media and ticketholder policy totally missed that week of English class or are huge fans of the George Orwell's 1984 antagonist, Big Brother, because check it out:
Point (1) is the most important point, and probably the biggest change in media policy. To me, point (4) is the next most interesting. But keep in mind, all the media points are terms of a contract; it's a this-for-that arrangement where the media guy gets access in exchange for limitations on use of material. This only applies to people with media credentials. There is a separate agreement for ticket holders.
- Media Creds can only be issued to full-time salaried employees of accredited media institutions. This will be the biggest sticking point for the media, and it's the first sentence in the terms. The "full-time" condition is a huge deal for two reasons: it shuts down all possibility of allowing bloggers to be a part of the media (with the exception of people like Spencer Hall, who is considered media via Sporting News); it also shuts out a lot of the smaller media outlets - especially print media from small markets. I think it's more important to focus on that latter point, and here's why. As a blogger, I would like a chance to get more involved with the sports programs so I can bring better content to RTT. However, it's not my livelihood. At many of the smaller markets, the sports journalist is a part-time guy (or otherwise not "salaried") and removing his beat may endanger his job. That may be a stretch (and I'll readily admit I'm not familiar with small market media), but that's a far bigger consequence for them than anything I have to worry about.
- No audio or video may be transmitted of the event within 72 hours of the even, except for television newscasts. And those clips must be shorter than 3 minutes. The 72-hour window will give the game-carrier (ESPN, ABC, or the SEC Digital Network in most cases) exclusivity during the 'hot' time. This is a concession to the big boys who are paying money so they can be the only ones broadcasting things while everybody's interested.
- Highlights cannot be placed online or transmitted through any "new media" medium (e.g. cell phones, PDAs, etc.). For the moment, remember that this is talking about media personnel; we'll get to ticketed people in a bit. There is an interesting ambiguity here in that there is no time limit explicitly connected with this, yet it's in the same paragraph as the preceding point. So, can GVX post highlights after the 72-hour window? Probably not. Even more interesting is this scenario: suppose ESPN is covering a Vols game. They'll naturally be on hand to record post game interviews, which are a part of the "Event". Is GVX now prohibited from posting their audio of the interview on their website? Even after 72 hours? There is room for interpretation here, and the SEC will have to figure it out.
- No "real time" updates of any form. This will presumably include Twitter in the eyes of the SEC. Interesting note: "... the determination of whether a blog is a real-time description or transmission shall be made by the SEC in its sole discretion." In its most draconian form, this could be read to say that live game threads are taboo. However, this is a restriction placed on the "Bearer" of a media credential. We don't have media credentials and are therefore not subject to the terms of this contract. I'm very interested to find out their intent on this point.
- Media Credentialed personnel may take pictures to use in their stories. Still photographs don't interfere with video coverage, however,
- Media cannot sell the pictures they take. This is really interesting for image services like Getty, who often buy pictures from local media rather than hire somebody to cover each and every event in the country. Add to it that only full-time salaried employees can get media creds in the first place, and all of a sudden outlets like Getty won't have a source for photos.
- Radio stations cannot use live commentary in game updates without prior permission. This really isn't a big deal, but while a game is in progress, the little sound-bite updates can only be given if the SEC allows.
Ticket Holders and Non-Media Credentials
This will hit closer to home for most. Again, keep in mind it's a contract, and these are the restrictions that the SEC demands in exchange for allowing you to 'license' a seat for the event. That, and paying for the ticket, of course.
- No use of photos, video, audio, etc. that is copyrighted. I emphasize the 'copyrighted' bit because there's more to follow. But basically, any transmission of information that belongs to somebody else can't be used by a ticket holder. Honestly, that's pretty standard stuff, so pay more attention to the next point, which I will quote directly because it's the most important one to know.
- "No Bearer may produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, audio, reproduction, or other information concerning the Event, other than in speech that cannot be restricted under the First Amendment, in any form." You read that right: no picture-taking. No cell pics, no cell videos. No Twittering. No calling your best friend and explaining what just happened. That's the letter of the law in this term of the contract (always remember; this is a contract). How far will the SEC pursue this? I have no idea, but the language is in place to give them as much freedom as they want. However, its interpretation is made shaky by this term later on (and I again quote):
- "Bearer may not bring alcoholic beverages, bottles, cans or containers, laser pointers, irritants (e.g. artificial noisemakers), video cameras, strobe-lights, or any type of weapon (or anything which the SEC or its member institution may deem a weapon) onto the premises of the Event. Note that cameras are not excluded. So while there is language prohibiting photography, there is not language prohibiting cameras. Also, I would like to point out that the Mississippi State cowbells are technically banned under this policy (even though I think it's a cool tradition). So if the SEC lets MSU fans use cowbells, they don't really have any room to prohibit the carrying of cameras, which aren't included in the policy. Oh, and smoking may be banned at events, too. But you knew that. (Side note: in a conversation we had offline, Joel suggested that could be an oversight, so we'll see how it goes.)
(HUGE, GIGANTIC FOAM CLOWN COWBOY HAT TIP TO ROCKY TOP TALK ON THIS.)
This has been peppered to death already by John Clay, EDSBS and Dr. Saturday's Holly Anderson (a Vol fan, but a tolerable one), and the aforementioned smart guys over at Rocky Top Talk. As fantastic as we all thought the new SEC/ESPN media deal was going to be for everyone ever, it turns out it comes with a few, ah, restrictions.
What's to be done about it? I'm a big fan of passive resistance. Are the blue and/or yellow coats really going to be sitting up in the concourses with binoculars watching to see if LSU fan is dropping bourbon into his RC Cola, or if Mississippi State fan has a cowbell? I doubt it, they don't get paid enough and they've got enough on their plate already. My advice is to ignore all this stuff and dismiss it as the unenforceable crap it is. Just because you bought a ticket doesn't mean the SEC can tell you how to behave. Sure, there are some limits, but no cell phone photos or even conversations? Get out.
UPDATE: The Birmingham News is reporting that some of these policies as they pertain to the media may be "tweaked." I should think "tweaking" would be an understatement.