New MLB press-credential criteria revised

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Editor's note: The original article appearing April 23 on talks between Major League Baseball and journalism organizations should have said only that the Associated Press Sports Editors issued a statement saying Major League Baseball “has delivered a credential agreement that may be satisfactory to the majority of the APSE’s membership.” The American Society of Newspaper Editors has not issued any statement with regard to that credential agreement. Nor did ASNE recommend that photographers sign an agreement conditionally. The story below is the corrected version.

After six weeks of negotiations, Major League Baseball has introduced revised press-credential criteria that satisfy some press advocates, who had contested MLB’s first draft of the new criteria that placed substantial restrictions on photographers.

“We believe this is an important victory for our right to bring fair and balanced coverage to our readers both in print and online,” said Associated Press Sports Photographers President Mike Fannin in a press release. “But, it is not a total victory and we will continue to fight anything that includes restrictions. There remains no evidence that more media is bad for anyone’s business.”

In February 2008, MLB published new criteria for press credentials. The MLB had previously limited to seven the number of photos that could be published after a game and had restrictions on audio and video recordings. The new regulations limited the number of photos that could be posted online in galleries, among other requirements.

The updated regulations attracted a number of complaints from news and sports editors across the country. In early March, MLB executives began negotiating with representatives from press organizations.

MLB initially suggested foul language on video and audio recordings and potentially objectionable images were concerns that prompted the new regulations. Many news organizations have suggested MLB wants to protect its own, which publishes photos, audio, video and news stories about big-league baseball games, from competition.

After the first round of negotiations, MLB released a revised set of criteria on March 21. It separated the regulations into two categories, one for online-only publications and the other for print- and broadcast- anchored organizations. Though the new criteria loosened some of the most controversial restrictions, press advocates were still unhappy.

The latest credentials agreement allows news organizations to post a “reasonable number” of photos in online galleries after games have ended. Since 2001, the MLB has enforced a rule allowing no more than seven pictures to be posted online during a game; this rule will not be affected by the new agreement. Nor do the approved credentials alter the restrictions on posting audio and video, which are both limited to 120 seconds per game.

The audio-video rule does not apply to press conferences, though those meetings are not allowed to be streamed live on the Internet.

Melanie Bengtson is a junior studying political and economic development at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.