New Major League Baseball Restrictions on Press Credentials Hamstring Online Coverage

As an avid baseball fan, I should have been paying closer attention to the recent dispute over Major League Baseball's new restrictions on credentialing journalists who cover MLB games. A nice summary of the dispute on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press' Sidebar Blog awoke me from my slumber.

In a repeat of past efforts by MLB to limit the use of photographs and play-by-play coverage of games, the new 2008 press credentials:

  • Limit to seven the number of photographs from each game that may be displayed online;

  • Prohibit the use of game photographs as part of a photo gallery;

  • Require prior written notice of the intention to display non-text accounts of games;

  • Restrict the recording of audio and video from 45 minutes prior to a scheduled game until that game has concluded; and

  • Restrict the length of time certain content may be made available or archived online.

Thankfully, the Online News Association, National Press Photographers Association, and others are fighting back. David Ledford, President of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association, took MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to task over the new restrictions:

Newspaper coverage of MLB is woven into the fabric of American life, with readers across this country daily beginning their days consuming the coverage we provide. As society moves deeper into the digital age, newspaper coverage – including work done on our Web sites – must continue to chronicle America’s pastime with the same depth and heart that we’ve displayed since the game’s inception.

Please don't handcuff the institutions which for more than a century have drawn millions of fans to MLB by chronicling the great moments and the great players that have kept baseball vibrant through times good and bad.

MLB officials are slated to meet this week with a number of groups opposed to the new rules. Here's hoping that MLB drops these onerous restrictions before the season begins on March 31.

UPDATE: The RCFP is reporting that Major League Baseball officials have agreed to negotiate certain aspects of the 2008 credentialing program:

[T]he league agreed to allow the use of photo galleries and more than doubled the number of photographs that can be used online from a single game. Baseball officials also agreed that certain games deserved more coverage than others and that they will discuss changing the 72-hour limit on archiving multi-media. 

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