The sports credentialing season has begun - what you need to know

The credentials are rather confusing (and somewhat poorly written; to wit: the use of the phrase "Internet print news coverage"), with several provisions appearing to conflict with each other.

Originally posted on 9/6/2012

The end of summer marks the beginning of "credentialing season," the period during which the majority of the credentials governing media access to sporting events are issued with the expectation that media organizations will duly sign and return them without comment. The bulk of the credentials are received during the next few weeks because we are on the cusp of the most highly covered sporting events in the country: the NFL and college sports (though high school athletic associations are not immune from issuing restrictive credentials).

In fact, we have seen the Southeastern Conference media credentials that are being issued for 2012-13. These are rather similar to prior years. You may recall that we had serious problems with the 2009 SEC credentials that culminated in a joint letterfrom ASNE, APME and APSE to the SEC asking for changes in a protest that ultimately

The credentials are rather confusing (and somewhat poorly written; to wit: the use of the phrase "Internet print news coverage"), with several provisions appearing to conflict with each other. While there appear to be certain rights granted to reporters that have not existed in the past (for instance, the reporter/publication explicitly retains the copyright in "bearer-generated" video, photos or news stories and can, subject to certain limitations, even sublicense those works), these are outweighed by several questionable provisions:

  • The claiming by the SEC of a blanket right to revoke the credential at any time for any reason.
  • The requirement that the bearer of the credential allow his or her likeness to be used by the SEC in any media worldwide, a consent that does not appear to be limited to non-commercial uses and therefore could result in a reporter showing up in an advertisement for the SEC or a member institution.
  • A requirement that the SEC grant prior approval to any use not explicitly approved by these credentials, including but not limited to "noneditorial, advertising, sales promotion or merchandising use" a common provision that is often invoked to prevent commemorative photos or publications (which is very important here, given that the SEC has produced the last 7 national football champions).
  • A prohibition on making any film, video, photo or other image available to any organization, person or entity without advance written permission.
  • Prohibitions on any uses of images featuring or in conjunction with an individual or any SEC conference or team trademark, which would limit the ability to promote a publicationís coverage of the local SEC team.
  • The continued prohibition on the use of game action on any Internet-based video feed other than the simulcast of an authorized broadcast or news program; so, a newspaper cannot shoot video and post it to the web if any game footage can be seen in the background.
  • A tacit allowance of blogging, as long as such blogging does not constitute a ìreal timeî description or transmission of the event (with the SEC being the sole arbiter of what constitutes "real time" description or transmission of the event).

ASNE will not take a position on whether you should sign a particular set of credentials or the propriety of individual provisions within those credentials; that decision is yours and yours alone. But we can provide you with background information regarding similar credentialing provisions and connect you with other members who might be facing similar questions and concerns. We have several archived resources available to you:

Even if you do not need assistance in reviewing and understanding credentials, you can help us by sending us copies of credentials you are asked to sign. We'll keep those in a database for future reference, to educate members on this issue for years to come.

So please take advantage of the resources ASNE has to offer. If you canít find something you need, feel free to contact Kevin M. Goldberg at 703-812-0462 or And please feel free to send him any credentialing agreements you receive to add to his database.