The Association of Independent Television Stations (INTV) is filing suit in federal courts today in Oklahoma City and Los Angeles seeking to void the current contracts for network telecasts of college football games.
"Our case is very simple when you cut through all the legal arguments and mumbo jumbo," said Herman W. Land, president of INTV, at a press conference here. "Our stations feel they have been shut out. They can't compete. They don't want any guarantees, just let us compete head-to-head (against the networks) and let the viewers decide."
INTV is a trade association representing 108 television stations that are not network affiliates.
This case is the latest in the wake of a Supreme Court decision this summer that deregulated NCAA control of televising college football because of violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. This case makes the College Football Association a defendant over the same issues in which it originally was a plaintiff in the NCAA case.
"They've turned around and tried to reinstate it in a new form," Land said. "We think it's just as illegal. We still don't have a chance to compete. This time we shouldn't wait 30 years (the period of unchallenged NCAA control), and get in before everything solidifies and freezes."
According to Land, the independents want to be able to televise games of local interest in their markets, not compete with the networks for the top national games. With current restrictions in network contracts and conference syndications, such telecasts are impossible in many markets from noon to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time each Saturday.
INTV is suing CBS Inc. and the Big Ten and Pacific-10 conferences in Los Angeles. In Oklahoma City, the defendants are the CFA, the Big Eight Conference, ABC Broadcasting Cos. Inc., ABC Sports Inc. and ESPN. INTV is seeking a preliminary injunction and, according to attorney Forrest A. Hainline III, "we want to move quickly so stations can bid for the rest of this season. But our main interest is to make sure this anticompetitive new system is not locked in for seasons to come."
Spokesmen for the parties being sued declined comment until they see the case.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in Los Angeles issued a preliminary injunction saying Nebraska and Notre Dame could not cite CFA-ABC restrictions forbidding those schools to appear on another network as reasons not to have games televised. At the hearing in that case, lawyers for both sides charged the other client's contract violated the antitrust laws. In his preliminary injunction, Judge Richard Gadbois said both contracts raised antitrust questions.