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Missouri legislation targets NFL's video policy


Jefferson City, MO – Two Missouri lawmakers are taking on the National Football League. Legislation filed Tuesday would force the NFL to allow local television stations to shoot video coverage from the sidelines of Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams games.

The NFL adopted a policy last season that barred most local TV cameras from the sidelines.

Instead, local media have had to get sideline video through a pool photographer, or from the network covering the game.

Broadcast stations have complained that the policy prohibits them from zooming in on particular players for feature stories that would be of interest to their local audiences. Senators Matt Bartle and Victor Callahan, from suburban Kansas City, want to require mandate media access at all publicly funded stadiums.

"Ultimately, football belongs to all of us and should have access to all of us," said Callahan, a Democrat from Independence whose district includes the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium. He called the policy "an attempt to block the public from what is America's pastime."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday that the league would review the policy as it does other policies before the start of the next football season. It was adopted to limit media congestion on the sidelines and protect the NFL's property rights to the game video, Aiello said.

"We value the coverage of local stations in the promotion of the NFL, and this was by no means an attempt to restrict or limit that coverage," Aiello said.

But TV stations contend that is exactly what the policy does.

The legislation has the backing of the Missouri Broadcasters Association, which claims the NFL's policy is both irrational and an interference with journalists' jobs.

"I was perplexed by the policy, quite frankly, because it's kind of a symbiotic relationship the local broadcasters and their coverage of these games has contributed a great deal to the success that these NFL franchises have enjoyed," said broadcasters association president Don Hicks. "And then you're going to turn around and prohibit them from doing sideline coverage of the game?"

Since a Missouri law can't overturn a nationwide NFL policy, the bill focuses solely on the two stadiums in Missouri. It says that any entity owning, operating or leasing a stadium for which at least 10 percent of the construction costs came from state or local taxes cannot prohibit media photographers from having reasonable access to the sidelines of the playing field.