I see the WIAA is suing the Appleton Post Crescent over broadcast rights violations after the paper provided live, streaming coverage of an Appleton North playoff football game last year. This lawsuit could raise some real sticky issues that could end up costing the fans in the end.
The most basic issue is whether the paper should have had to pay the broadcast rights fee for the contest. I can tell you that whenever Bob or I do a playoff game on one of our stations, we have to pay $50. And given current corporate policy, we have to pay that out of our own pockets--then wait for re-imbursement a few weeks later. That can add up pretty quick when you do five or six games in two weeks during the basketball playoffs. The cost really goes up when you go to state--as the per game fee jumps to $90--and you have to pay 75-dollars for "installation" of a phone line that is already in the Kohl Center and Camp Randall Stadium. According to the lawsuit, the paper didn't pay the $50 fee for the football game--apparently on the auspices that it wasn't doing a "broadcast"--but was rather just showing live videon on its site. I'm going on the assumptiong that some business was sponsoring the "non-broadcast, live feed"--so they should have been paying the broadcast rights fee.
The thornier issue in this lawsuit is that the WIAA wants the judge to declare that it has exclusive rights to all images, descriptions and writings for its playoff contests. That is a bit scary--as it would allow the group to limit media access to such contests--or to censor those covering the games. For example, let's say Bob Burnell says the refs hosed Oshkosh West on a call in their next game. The WIAA--if awarded exclusive rights to playoff contests--could say "WOSH, you are no longer broadcasting any of our playoff games." Or if a newspaper called into question the seeding process, it's reporters could be banned from gyms the rest of the year. Who wins in those scenarios? Certainly not the fans--especially those who can't make it to every game--or who might live far away from Oshkosh but rely on internet streams to follow the team.
The WIAA tried a similar power play a few years ago when it announced plans for its own "playoff radio network"--which would have had exclusive rights to state championship games. The WIAA was going to lock out us local play-by-play guys and make stations wanting to carry their area teams to broadcast ALL of the games that week--meaning that we would have had to carry Lodi versus Spread Eagle girls if we wanted to broadcast Oshkosh West and Milwaukee Vincent. Local stations balked at the plan and the WIAA backed down. But, I fear armed with a legal decision, the WIAA could follow through with those threats in the future. And if the fans can't follow their teams how does that benefit the kids?