Brian Hamilton: Little League does big business |

Brian Hamilton: Little League does big business

TouchDown Productions has filmed 103 western Nevada County sporting events so far in 2008, including 14 of the Little League baseball variety.

And two of the ball games ready for broadcast showcase area All-Stars competing in the annual District 11 tournament. Just don’t expect to see those contests – or any other Little League All-Star action – on TD Productions’ “Game of the Week” anytime soon.

Nor will parents and family members of the Little Leaguers taking the field be able to buy a DVD copy of the games, as area sports fans have had the opportunity to do ever since Gil Dominguez first brought sports to the local access television channels 11 years ago.

Why? Apparently, because District Administrator Dick Gold says so.

Gold gave the glum news to Dominguez, owner of the community sports show, on Wednesday, a few hours before his crew was to head over to Pioneer Park in Nevada City for a semifinal showdown in the Majors All-Stars division.

But exactly why the district pulled the plug on TouchDown Productions remains unclear, even after talking with Gold by phone.

“They do not have access. They are not working for us,” Gold said of Dominguez and company. “TouchDown Productions does not have permission to be there. We’ve had contracts with them in previous years, but the last one expired at the end of the TOC (Tournament of Champions, last month). They don’t have access, because they do not have a contract.”

And if the TouchDown Productions crew attempted to film Wednesday’s game, Gold said the game would be stopped until the crew removed its equipment from the ball park, or even perhaps relocated to another area Little League ball diamond.

So Nevada City Little League would essentially be forfeiting its opportunity to host the Majors Area 2 tournament because a local member of the media might decide to challenge Gold’s decision?

“If they turn on their cameras and don’t have permission, I have no recourse but to move the games,” Gold said. “We’d stop the game or shut it down until they leave.”

Wouldn’t that essentially boil down to the district punishing the local league, teams, players and fans?

“Who is actually punishing them, Little League?” Gold asked. “Or would it be TouchDown Productions, if they’re out there filming illegally? We’re not penalizing them, because the kids will play the tournament. It just would not be played in Nevada City because we have a company refusing to abide the rules and not shoot because they don’t have a contract.”

Yet when asked why there would be no contract extended, Gold said he did not want to comment further on the matter, although he then proceeded to accuse Dominguez of “lying” to him about still photography being shot by the TD Productions crew members. According to Gold, Dominguez said the photos were to be shot and published on the cover of the DVDs he sells of each broadcast.

Gold, however, said TD Productions also offers its print photography – such as the shots captured by crew members – for sale on its web site. He explained that Little League requires permission for publishing images or video on the net, following up with the actual policy via e-mail:

“… if a web site that is not owned or operated by a chartered Little League program wishes to post video or a photograph of a child or children who are identified in some way as Little Leaguers, the operator of the web site must first receive permission to do so from Little League International. Such permission will only be granted if the child’s parent or guardian has provided written permission to do so.”

Fair enough, but after reading a few more paragraphs into the policy I can’t help but wonder why TouchDown Productions would even need Gold to give the “go-ahead” in filming and broadcasting the games:

“When the Web site is that of a news organization (such as a local TV station, newspaper, etc.), generally speaking, the permissions noted above are not required. However, the local Little League should always be aware when the news media is recording images of children, so the parents can be fully informed.”

So is TouchDown Productions a local news organization? After more than a decade of broadcasting in western Nevada County, – sometimes up to four or five programs a week – I would suggest that the crew qualifies.

Gold isn’t ready to agree, though.

In fact, Little League has charged TouchDown Productions $100 a ball game to broadcast All-Star action, extending only a commercial contract in previous broadcast agreements.

Though he would not say whether the sale of the photos on the Web site kept him from extending a contract for the current All-Star tournament, Gold did say TouchDown Productions had no right to publish or sell the images captured of the contests.

If Gold’s objection to TouchDown Productions is the fact that the company is making a buck on Little League – which he suggested in a e-mail to Dominguez – he needs to take a look at the bigger picture.

Although The Union has not been charged a fee to cover the games, we still certainly hope our Little League coverage helps sell newspapers off the rack each day. Show me a news organization not in the business of making money and I’ll show you a news organization that will be out of business in very short order.

And while Gold has apparently decided to no longer allow TouchDown Productions to be in the business of covering Little League All-Star games – at least in the near future – he’s also decided that Little Leaguers throughout the area won’t be afforded the opportunity of seeing themselves in action on TV.

Unless, of course, they’re fortunate enough to reach the World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where they would play in front of a national audience on ESPN or ABC … which, while certainly are wonderful news organizations, also stand to make millions in advertising revenue while covering the very same kids TouchDown Productions no longer can.

Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. Contact him via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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