Media Companies Consider Suing MLB Over Reporting Restrictions
from the careful-with-that-antitrust-exemption dept
We’ve discussed how both Major League Baseball and the National Football League have convinced the press to live with restrictions on how they can report on games online. For rather obvious reasons, this seems troubling. While both are private organizations that can set up the terms by which they hand out press passes, you would think that the media, with its strong belief in a free press, would refuse to go along with any restrictions. The NY Times is now looking into the issue, noting that a big part of the problem is still that the leagues somehow think they “own” sports content. It also points out that part of the problem was in thinking that “video” is only done by television networks who pay tremendous sums for exclusive rights. So the leagues are afraid that reporters with camera phones will put those huge contracts in jeopardy.
However, hidden down towards the end of the article is one interesting tidbit. A bunch of big media companies are actively doing legal research in preparation for bringing these restrictions into court. Specifically, they’re interested in targeting Major League Baseball — which has a special exemption from antitrust law from Congress. The media companies may use these restrictions to suggest that MLB is abusing that right. While it would definitely make for an interesting lawsuit, it’s still difficult to see how the activities are, by themselves, illegal. The team gets to decide who it gives out press passes too — and that’s where the restrictions come from. If the media refused to take press passes and reported on the team in other ways (including buying tickets to the game for reporters) then it could report however it wanted — just with a lot less access. But if all the major media started boycotting the terms of access this way, you can bet that MLB and the NFL would back down quickly.