Gannett, AP Won't Agree To New SEC Online Media Rules

Florida QB Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow and the University of Florida Gators head the Associated Press pre-season football poll by a wide margin but the AP may not be in the stadium to cover their season opener against Charleston Southern. AP won’t be able to pick up coverage from member chain Gannett (NYSE: GCI) either. Both the news co-op and the newspaper publisher are refusing to sign a credential policy designed to severely restrict online coverage of Southeastern Conference games, according to E&P.

Gannett has told its papers that cover the SEC not to sign and an AP lawyer confirmed to E&P that it will not sign up for credentials with the limits in place. Conversations between news organizations and the SEC are ongoing, including a call scheduled for this afternoon. We’ll update as warranted. No immediate results from today’s call; another is scheduled for tomorrow.

The policy was coupled with an extraordinary effort to limit social media use on the part of fans, trying to turn the act of getting a ticket in a contract not to Twitter during games or conduct other social media activity that the conference fears will damage its broadcast rights. The SEC revised the policy after an initial public outcry but media organizations aren’t satisfied. Three organizations — the AP Sports Editors, AP Managing Editors and ASNE — protested by letter (pdf) to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive last week.

Among the limits and requirements imposed by the SEC in concert with its new online media partner XOS Digital:

— Still photos online would be limited to regular “print” news coverage and “shall not otherwise be posted, placed, or distributed on the Internet.” That would seem to exclude slide shows, galleries and archives.

— The SEC and its member schools would get a non-exclusive license to use news photos without extra charge.

— News orgs would be prohibited from blogging “real-time description” in game.

— Publishing video and audio highlights from SEC games online is prohibited for online newspapers but allowed in same cases for TV stations with websites, plus there are time limits on pre and post-game video and audio use.

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