Ceremony broadcast at issue

September 09, 1995|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore's four network television stations -- channels 2, 11, 13 and 45 -- all carried portions of the post-game ceremonies surrounding Cal Ripken's breaking baseball's consecutive-games record late Wednesday night.

However, officials at Westinghouse Broadcasting Co., the Orioles' television rights-holder, believe that only Channel 13 and Home Team Sports were legally entitled to do so, and they are reviewing what steps to take.

In a one-paragraph statement issued yesterday, Howard Affinito, assistant general counsel for Westinghouse, which owns Channel 13 and HTS, said the company had "the exclusive, legal right to broadcast this event. The other stations were notified in advance of our position and we expected them to honor the exclusive rights granted to us by the Orioles."

"What we do about that is up in the air at this time," said Affinito.

An HTS spokesman said each television station in the Baltimore and Washington area was faxed an advisory Tuesday, alerting them that the rights to the games and ceremonies Tuesday and Wednesday were copyrighted.

However, channels 2, 11 and 45 carried Wednesday's ceremony, which included Ripken's speech, as well as remarks from Joe DiMaggio, Brooks Robinson, Mike Mussina and Brady Anderson. When HTS officials discovered that their embargo had been broken, they phoned the stations to ask them to cut off the broadcasts.

It's unclear how many stations broke off coverage before the ceremonies ended.

Joe Lewin, general manager of Channel 2, said he did not receive a letter from HTS but admitted that the station did carry the HTS feed without permission.

"Our people saw that another station was carrying the ceremony and assumed the embargo had been lifted," said Lewin. "It was an error, in the heat of the moment. We shouldn't have done that and when they asked us [to stop], we pulled out. Mistakes happen."

Because of the length of the game, delayed 22 minutes, 15 seconds by an ovation for Ripken, the stations were given permission by ESPN -- which has exclusive national rights Wednesday nights and whose feed was carried by Channel 13 -- to air highlights from the game before it ended. But that privilege did not extend to the post-game ceremonies.

"There was a misunderstanding of information somewhere along the way that led to us carrying the HTS feed," said David Roberts, Channel 11 news director. "When officials from HTS requested that we discontinue carrying their feed, we honored their request promptly. In essence, we made a mistake. We regret the error."

Channel 45 officials were unavailable to comment.

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