Rules make this Ravens country


November 22, 1996


Staff Writer

Local Pittsburgh Steelers fans are unhappy that some of their team's games aren't being aired locally, but the culprit isn't the television station.

The same rules which governed the televising of Baltimore Colts games until the team left for Indianapolis following the 1983 season apply for the Baltimore Ravens.

Those rules, contained in a contractual agreement between the National Football League and team owners, have caused heartache for Steelers fans and headaches for WHAG-TV program manager Chuck Nolan.


"I've personally talked to 241 people trying to explain the situation," Nolan said. "The problem is with the NFL not understanding that this is Steelers territory and it's not easily changed, especially in Hagerstown, just because there is another team in Baltimore."

Nolan said he knows what local football fans want, but his hands are tied.

"NBC wants us to have Pittsburgh games here," Nolan said. "They want us to have the best game possible on the air. But it's all in the hands of the NFL."

And the NFL says Hagerstown is part of the Ravens' flock.

"It's a contractual thing," said Val Pinchback, of the NFL's media and communications department.

Under a contract with the NFL, a team owner can require any television station within a 75-mile radius to carry the team's broadcast.

That broadcast rule has been in effect since the 1950s, Pinchback said.

When Ravens owner Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore, he designated WHAG as being in Baltimore's market.

That means WHAG is required to show all of the Ravens' road games and any home game Baltimore sells out within 72 hours of kickoff.

"I don't fault the Ravens for taking advantage of the NFL's rules," Nolan said.

"Any person who owns a team will take advantage of what the rules offer to help his business."

Because of the agreement, only 12 of the Steelers' 16 regular-season games were scheduled to be aired in this area, including eight on WHAG.

"We've been fighting this all along," Nolan said. "We are appealing to the fan base to write the NFL and ask for the change. You're not going to change a Steelers fan into a Ravens fan."

Pinchback said a write-in campaign isn't likely to remedy the situation.

"We try to do our best across the board," Pinchback said. "We have 30 teams in the league trying to sell out games and five networks paying billions of dollars a year trying to capture the excitement of the NFL for the fans."

But that might not satisfy Steelers fans or Nolan.

"We are here to carry what the viewing public wants to see," Nolan said. "I don't see the audience here changing. If it takes five years of whining to get (all Steelers games) here, I'll do it."

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