The Southeastern Conference on Thursday announced revisions to its new media policy that had drawn the ire of several major news organizations.
By doing so, the league headed off a potential boycott of football coverage next weekend. The SEC season starts next Thursday with South Carolina visiting North Carolina State.
"That was a concern," SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said, "but the overriding concern was the effect the overall issue was having from a PR standpoint on the conference and our institutions. Our schools have had a long history of working together with the media to cover the games, and this was obviously fractioning that.
"We didn't want to have a situation where a media agency that's been covering games at an institution for a long while all of a sudden say they're not going to cover a game because of a new policy derived by the conference. We worked very hard to fix that and continue the positive relationships that we've had."
The SEC was assisted in the revision of its policy by representatives of the Associated Press Sports Editors, Associated Press Managing Editors, American Society of News Editors and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. The AP refused to comply with previous drafts of the policy, as did Gannett, which owns The Tennessean in Nashville and The Courier-Journal in Louisville.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Knoxville News Sentinel also refused.
Tiffany Carpenter, spokesperson for University of Tennessee athletics, said school officials were happy about the SEC's changes.
"We think the policy will give the media the access they need but will allow the SEC and UT to protect our digital rights and trademarks," Carpenter said. "We hope it is a good medium to allow the media to continue to cover UT the way fans want them to cover UT."
Adjustments announced Thursday give media agencies additional flexibility in Internet news coverage, uses of photographic images and access to video images for television newscasts. Newspapers can continue producing photo galleries on their Web sites and archiving photographs for commemorative sections, while television stations have more video flexibility to produce special shows, such as an Iron Bowl preview.
The SEC's media policy, which was sent to league schools Aug. 6 and revised for a first time Aug. 14, is intended to steer more Web traffic to member institutions and the new SEC Digital Network.
"When contacted by major media associations, we immediately began constructive dialogue to address their concerns," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "While there were a few changes we could not meet, there was agreement on many of the issues."
Where the SEC never budged was on video of game footage. The league will retain its exclusive rights for game action video on the Internet but will continue to allow videos of news conferences and sideline interviews, whether before, after or at halftime of games.
There are no longer limits on blogging entries, but play-by-play blogging is prohibited.
"A large part of the issues were quickly handled, and I think a lot of that dealt with language," Bloom said. "This should be it as far as this season, but there could be revisions in future years."