The House Subcommittee on Communications plans to look into some problem areas of network sports television. Subcommittee Chairman Lionel Van Deerlin (D-Calif.) said yesterday.
Specifically, Van Deerlin said, the Subcommittee is interested in the CBS "winner-take-all" tennis series, the United States Boxing Championships aired by ABC and the contract for Olympic coverage between NBC and the Soviet Union.
"The only justification for our getting into it is to ascertain to what extent the networks are becoming part of the events they're covering," Van Deerlin said. "The larger question is how can you legitimately cover a sports event you have arranged and set up. Where does entertainment leave off and honest reporting of news and sports events begin?"
As for the Olympic television contract, Van Deerlin said, "It does seem to me that when you have one of the big networks laying out that kind of money in a commercial contract with a foreign power, it comes into the areana of public concern.
"Unless NBC makes public the terms of the contract there will be some suspicion of what the Soviet Union has insisted upon as an extension of the sports coverage."
The complaints and compliances division of the Federal Communications Commission is collecting evidence on the CBS tennis shows in which the winner purportedly received the entire purse but in which the prize money was actually split beforehand. Richard Wiley, chairman of the FCC, appeared before the Subcommittee yesterday and declined to comment on the issue because of that prior involvement.
"My preference would be for the commission to get into this," Van Deerlin said. "As a former newsman, I'm reluctant to see a government agency intruding on the editorial judgment of broadcasters, but after the experience of the quiz-show scandals to see the tennis, which is clearly a fraud, public interest demands it.
"Nobody can seriously say the boxing tournament was an event worthy of coverage by ABC. There was an aura of phoniness about the boxing series that they recognized fairly soon and got out."
Van Deerlin apparently is even more concerned about an extension of network involvement into other areas than about the boxing and tennis revelations.
In a related matter, Gov. Hugh Carey of New York has asked the State Legislature to abolish the State Athletic Commission and replace it with a stronger agency under the Secretary of State's office.
James Farley Jr., chairman of the States Athletic Commission, has suspended himself while Carey studies a report Farley submitted on his involvement in the ABC boxing series. ABC dropped the bouts when allegations were made of payoffs and rigged records in the tournament.