UFC's Media Policy: Chickens Beginning to Come Home to Roost

The UFC can brush aside new media outlets or bloggers as insignificant or "goofy", but when long time MSM outlets begin to question the UFC's credentialing practice and obvious desire to strictly control coverage, you know something's up. A writer is aghast at their practices after trying to cover last week's UFC 84 event and his description for the L.A. Times is not kind. To wit:

One local journalist who covered Saturday's Ultimate Fighting Championship card at MGM's Grand Garden Arena wrote me an e-mail, offering this impression:  "UFC attempts to be more controlling than other sports. UFC sounds like it's trying to hem in media."

We were discussing his experience as well as the credential application that UFC demanded that I sign to be approved to cover the fight. The application specified everything from the trivial, forbidding my wearing certain clothes, to the ridiculous, controlling where and when I was allowed to write about the event forever more. In explaining this bizarre credential application that most would call not an application but a contract, UFC events manager Diann Brizzolara wrote me: "We have the right to protect our brand and how coverage taken from our events is disseminated." Actually, UFC does not have that right to control "how coverage taken...is disseminated" at all. This rather unique privilege in fact is what the credential application is trying to give them a back door claim to having. Brizzolara continued, "Other sports leagues, such as the NFL, have similar regulations printed on the back of their press passes." Two points: Similar isn't identical, and regulations on the back of a press pass are a wish list because they do not require my signature of agreement. Oh and the obvious, the UFC is no NFL.

...

Credential applications are supposed to be basic as they are designed to confirm only the legitimacy and assignment of media to an event. The standard application answers two questions: is this writer a legitimate journalist and does the writer have an assignment?

As much as I bag on the MSM for eminently forgettable fluff pieces, the truth is we need them to speak out against practices like the aforementioned. Bloggers - by virtue of their guerrilla, upstart democratic appeal - can cry and scream until they're blue in the face and it likely won't have an effect. But the L.A. Times or Washington Post or New York Times can make a difference. The UFC's policies are stubborn, but they're also amenable under the right kind of pressure. And when members of the traditional established media get treated like new media or are asked to jump through so many hoops that coverage becomes too cumbersome, you'll see a more organized backlash.

More, please. Faster, please.

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