Report: Controversial North Dakota State U. Sports Media Access Restrictions Came Under Pressure From Radio Rights Holder
September 26, 2016 at 4:00 AM (PT)
The controversial plan to restrict access to NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY athletics for media outlets other than the stations holding broadcast rights were created under pressure from rights holder RADIO FM MEDIA, reports the FARGO FORUM after an investigation involving review of over 2.800 pieces of written correspondence.
RADIO FM MEDIA won the broadcast rights to BISON games for Classic Rock KPFX (107.9 THE FOX)/FARGO under a three year deal reached in MARCH; the FORUM describes the radio stations as being "vigilant in protecting what it saw as the radio cluster's contract rights, sometimes prodding NDSU athletics officials to keep other outlets from infringing." Among the messages was one from NDSU Director of Sales and Broadcasting JEREMY JORGENSON telling RADIO FM MEDIA's COO NANCY ODNEY that the school would "protect" the BISON's FARGODOME home "like NCAA/ESPN does in the playoffs," including barring other broadcasters from certain types of access. Other messages included ODNEY complaining that rival MIDWEST COMMUNICATIONS Sports KVOX-A (740 THE FAN) and News-Talk KFGO-A/FARGO were seeking sponsors for shows promoted as "live from NDSU" which she believed violated the rights deal, and also asked for compensation if a station in LISBON, ND joined the BISON network. The correspondence does not show TV rights holder NBC affiliate KVLY-TV/FARGO to have pushed for the restrictions.
In a statement to the FORUM from ODNEY, RADIO FM MEDIA said, "It's commonplace for rights holders to want protection where there is tangible evidence that the market is getting blurred. The previous contracts called for exclusives as did the proposals submitted by our competitors. It was part of the bidding process which is typical throughout the country in college sports." She also noted that the stations will be paying the school over $600,000 during the contract term and denied being part of the process of creating the rules, adding, "As rights holder we have invested time and money into this process and we want to protect those investments." And she pointed out that the FORUM's own broadcast stations "placed last in the bid process for both radio and television and they demanded exclusivity in their bid." (FORUM ABC affiliate WDAY-TV/FARGO asked for exclusive pre-game and post-game locker room access in its bid for the rights.)
The new guidelines created a controversy when announced on JULY 29th and were rescinded by NDSU President DEAN BRESCIANI on AUGUST 4th, although the messages show BRESCIANI privately supporting the new rules (although they do not show him being involved in the rules' creation, which he said surprised him).