JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The National Football League will allow more local television stations to cover games from the sidelines next season under a policy change prompted by complaints from broadcast media.
Lawmakers in Missouri and Arizona had challenged an NFL policy, adopted for last season, that booted most local video cameras from the sidelines. Instead, TV stations were required to get sideline footage from a pool photographer or use the network television clips.
Broadcast stations complained the policy prohibited them from zooming in on particular players for feature stories that would be of interest to their local audiences.
Under a change in policy, the NFL now plans to allow up to 10 local TV cameras - generally five from each teams' media market - on the sidelines of games for its 2007-2008 season. The change was approved last week by NFL teams at a conference in Phoenix and announced at a Missouri Senate hearing on legislation targeting the former policy.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday that the new policy is intended to address the concerns of TV stations.
"With one camera on the sideline, it put a heavy burden on that one station to make tapes available and share it with so many other stations," Aiello said in a telephone interview. "We can do this in a more efficient way."
The NFL had described the camera restrictions as a way to make the sidelines safer and less crowded while also protecting the NFL's property rights to the game video. All of those goals are still met with the expanded number of sideline cameras, Aiello said.
Legislation filed in Missouri would have forced the NFL to allow local TV cameras on the sidelines of games hosted by the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams, on the justification they play in publicly subsidized stadiums. An Arizona lawmaker had proposed a similar measure affecting sideline TV cameras at Arizona Cardinals games.
In Phoenix Tuesday, the Arizona Senate rejected the proposed legislation, although its sponsor had said the state should still act despite the NFL policy change.
"Because they can do it today means they can change it tomorrow," Rep. John Nelson, R-Litchfield Park, said of the NFL. "They control the sidelines as it is, so their argument on safety and everything else is a little bit bogus."
Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, said the issue was unimportant compared with other policy issues facing Arizona lawmakers.
"Amen," chorused Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale.
The legislation in Missouri may also be sidelined - at least for this year. The Missouri Broadcasters Association said Tuesday that it was pleased with expanded number of sideline cameras.
Still, "so much of it depends upon how it actually functions in practice," said association president Don Hicks, "and a lot of that is going to depend upon how are these five going to be selected? Is there going to be any limit placed on their abilities to cover the game objectively?"
"If we don't see this working as well as it should, or as advertised, we might be back next year for another bite at the bill," Hicks said.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents some journalists, also had backed the Missouri legislation. Regional executive director John Miller said the NFL's new 10-camera policy seems like a reasonable compromise.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.