Lawmakers support measure opposing photo regulations at high school events

Adriana Colindres

Proposed legislation that would prevent the Illinois High School Association from regulating how news organizations use photographs and videos of sporting events sounds like a good idea to most central Illinois lawmakers.

"I think it’s a mistake for the IHSA to try and regulate the press," said Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, who once worked as a reporter with the Journal Star. "I have a good relationship with the IHSA. I just think they’re wrong on this one."

Leitch said he would vote for House Bill 4582 if he gets the opportunity.

"I think the IHSA is out of bounds, and I’m supportive of that language," Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, said of the legislation.

The bill stems from a dispute between the IHSA and the Illinois Press Association that escalated last fall and led to a lawsuit. At one point, the IPA withdrew a motion for a preliminary injunction against the IHSA because the two sides had revived negotiations.

The state high school football championships were played shortly after that in Champaign, where the IHSA denied on-field access to photographers from four newspapers, including the Journal Star and the Springfield State Journal-Register.

The IHSA said it was denying field access to newspapers that continued to sell photos online, a practice the IHSA contends violates its policy.

Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he probably would vote for the bill and added, "The IHSA seems to want ... an infringement on news organizations’ freedom of the press, in my opinion."

While none of the lawmakers contacted Thursday and Friday said they would oppose the legislation, at least one, Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, said he isn’t sure yet what he thinks about regulating the sale of journalism-produced photos.

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said Friday that news reports about he legislation have not been fair.

"It’s frustrating for us to see the one-sidedness of this," he said.

"We think lawmakers will see through this," Hickman said about the proposed legislation. "They’ll see it has nothing to do with freedom of the press, nothing to do with news."

"It’s about selling pictures," he added. "It’s clearly about selling pictures."

Don Craven, attorney for the IPA, said that is not true.

"This has nothing to do with photographs," Craven said. "This has everything to do with the IHSA wanting to claim ownership of high school sports. They want to be NASCAR."

"Illinois newspapers don’t make enough money selling photos of IHSA finals to pay for the camera, much less to pay for the photographers," he added.

Rep. Joe Lyons, D-Chicago, is sponsoring the bill, which was filed this week in the Illinois House of Representatives. Sen. James DeLeo, D-Chicago, has agreed to introduce identical legislation in the state Senate.

Debate on the bill won’t happen until next month at the earliest because lawmakers aren’t due back in Springfield until after the Feb. 5 primary.

A new wrinkle to the battle between the IHSA and the IPA appeared this week, when the IHSA said it probably would drop live television broadcasts of high school basketball and football championship games if lawmakers pass House Bill 4582.

"Each year our television coverage is accessible to millions of Illinois citizens," according to a statement posted by Hickman on the IHSA Web site. "Our viewership has long enjoyed this coverage, but without the ability to regulate its distribution, it is very likely that we will no longer be able to televise events."

After reviewing the statement, Craven said, "I don’t understand that at all."

The full statement is available online at Click on "IHSA Responds to House Bill 4582."

Adriana Colindres can be reached at 217-782-6292 or