SEC Policy Concerns Arkansas Media Outlets

FAYETTEVILLE — With the college football season set to begin next week, Arkansas media outlets have delayed applying for game credentials from the Southeastern Conference because of an ongoing dispute involving the league's new media policy.

The SEC released another revision of the policy Thursday, and while the league insists that the latest version is final, newspapers and TV stations still have issues with restrictions on the use of images and video from sporting events.

"I'm not happy with some third party trying to put any kind of restrictions on the content of material that we present to people that's a product of our own work and reporting and photography," said David Bailey, managing editor of the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette.

An attorney for Stephens Media, which owns The Morning News, was reviewing the SEC's new media guidelines Thursday.

So far, neither The Morning News, the Democrat-Gazette nor the Northwest Arkansas Times has applied for credentials to the Razorbacks' Sept. 5 season opener against Missouri State in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

Kevin Trainor, Arkansas' associate athletic director for media relations and communications, said the majority of media outlets that cover the Razorbacks on a regular basis have yet to apply for credentials.

"We expect that media outlets will analyze the SEC policy now that it's final, and make decisions" about whether to apply for credentials, Trainor said.

To apply for credentials, media outlets must agree to the SEC's policy revisions, which place restrictions on how newspapers use photographic images taken at games. TV stations would also have only the week following a game to show highlights from such events.

"We're still not happy with the guidelines primarily because it still limits how we can use our own material," said Mike Courington, news director for 40/29. "... I think the revised guidelines are better. They've gotten better each time they've revised them.

"I hope that this isn't the final revision."

Courington said 40/29 hasn't applied for credentials for Arkansas' season opener, but intends to do so as long as the SEC's new media policy is "fair."

The SEC has revised its media policy at least four times during the past few weeks, and while some of the more controversial guidelines have been altered, media outlets still have concerns.

Bailey, as the chairman of the First Amendment committee for the Associated Press Managing Editors, has been involved in the discussions with SEC officials about the policy.

"I still have concerns about claims of control or maybe even to some extent ownership rights over newspaper's intellectual property and copyright material," Bailey said. "I don't think it's entirely reasonable to expect newspapers to agree to this."

The SEC will make game highlights available to newspaper Web sites at no cost through its own, soon-to-be-launched digital network. Also, there are no in-game restrictions on the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, as long as they are not used to provide play-by-play descriptions.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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