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THE RETURN OF HEIDI? NFL RULES LEAD TO SHULA BOWL BLACKOUT
Published October 2, 1995
Many NFL viewers yesterday were upset at being denied the end of the Dolphins-Bengals game because of a league rule that dictates an immediate switch to the later game involving their market's designated team. In Orlando, considered a Jaguars market by the NFL, WESH was forced to leave the game with 20 seconds left. But when the station switched, the Jaguars-Oilers had not begun and viewers were shown commercials and pre-game commentary. WESH GM Jeff Lee said the station received 1,200 calls from irate fans in four hours. Lee, on the callers: "We agree with them. We think this is wrong. The NFL says this is the way they want to do it. ... Didn't we learn anything from Heidi?" (Sandra Pedicini, ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/2). Columnist Larry Guest writes, "Networks and their affiliates have little respect for the sporting events they cover and too often even less for the viewers" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/2). L.A. viewers also were switched away, but to the Chargers-Steelers. Originally, NBC chalked it up to "miscommunication" between the network and the league. But NBC spokesperson Ed Markey later said they were following NFL rules which consider L.A. a "secondary market" for the Chargers (Larry Stewart, L.A. TIMES, 10/2). Columnist Allan Malamud still blames NBC, saying the move "ranks right up there with 'Heidi' among the network's worst moments" (L.A. TIMES, 10/2).