PORTLAND, Ore. The University of Oregon has reversed field and will not limit TV stations' rights to show football highlights.
The university was considering restricting stations to only 20 seconds of highlights from Ducks' games, but decided not to because of the public outcry and possible legal entanglements regarding the policy, athletic director Bill Moos said yesterday.
When the proposed policy was announced in June it drew swift and almost entirely negative reaction from national news media groups.
The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation's largest journalists group, yesterday applauded the university's decision to leave its media policy unchanged.
"We are certainly thrilled. We are thrilled that the University of Oregon administration is standing up for the public's right to know," said SPJ President Ray Marcano.
The university had proposed limiting TV highlights to 20 seconds for 48 hours after a game and 30 seconds for up to a week after a game, for everyone except ESPN and KEZI, the local ABC affiliate.
Rights to clips shown a week after a game would have had to be purchased by the station. Reporters from those stations could have had their game credentials revoked if the rules were broken.
Yesterday, Moos asked the news media to respect other stations when using Ducks footage.
"We're hoping and feel confident through our conversations with the Oregon Association of Broadcasters that the media will police itself," he said. "We listened to the concerns broadcasters brought to us and will continue a policy that is in the best interest of all parties involved."
He said the university would "brainstorm" to find special privileges for ESPN and KEZI, but he had no specifics yesterday.
ESPN and KEZI "support the decision" to allow other broadcasters access to longer clips, Moos said.
The proposal had been intended to settle a long-simmering rivalry between Eugene TV stations KEZI and KVAL. For nine years, KVAL had the local rights to broadcast a few Ducks games and produce other non-news special programming, but the station lost the rights to KEZI before last season.
ESPN Regional now owns the rights, and KEZI pays $270,000 annually to carry the programming.
KVAL ran afoul of its rival and the school last year, when it aired a regular Sunday afternoon show called "Inside the PAC," which included highlights from the previous day's Pac-10 Conference games including Oregon's.
The show went on an hour before "The Mike Bellotti Show" on KEZI. Bellotti is Oregon's head coach.
KVAL general manager Dave Weinkauf said yesterday he was "very pleased" with the university's decision to drop the proposed policy.
"The universities desire to maximize the current boom in the Duck athletic program popularity is understandable, but when the desire for more money evolved into curtailment of the media's First Amendment rights we were very much concerned that the wrong motives were in play," he said.
Phone calls to KEZI were not immediately returned yesterday.
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in a brief statement that the national cable network supports the decision.