The Boston Red Sox television rights holder — the club’s own NESN, has issued a memorandum to the rest of the New England TV business, redefining how Red Sox highlights can and cannot be used. From the Boston Herald’s Jeff Horrgan.

NESN™s major restriction is to forbid the use of highlights while Red Sox and Bruins games are in progress. NESN first enforced its rights for Daisuke Matsuzaka™s 6:05 p.m. spring training debut on March 2, preventing footage from being shown on the 6 p.m. sports on Chs. 4, 5 and 7.

The Opening Day game in Kansas City on April 2 begins at 4:10 p.m., which virtually eliminates any chance that the local news will have highlights on the 5, 5:30 or 6 p.m. broadcasts.

West Coast games, games with lengthy rain delays and Sox-Yankees games, which tend to run much longer than other games, will also be affected.

œThey are totally within their rights to do this, but they™re getting this reaction because they™re changing the rules as they have existed in this market, said Jackie Connally, senior sports producer at WBZ-TV. œI don™t see anyone leaving a live game broadcast to go to the local news to watch highlights. But if I™m airing partial highlights of, say, the opener, I™m sure some people are going to say, ˜Oh, I forgot about that,™ and switch over to NESN. We™ll definitely be driving people over to them.

Local TV news used to be only at 6 and 11 p.m., but it now begins in the afternoon as early as 4 p.m., with nightly news kicking off at 9 p.m. on NECN, followed by the WBZ-operated broadcast on Ch. 38 at 9:30, and FOX-25, FSNE and the WHDH-operated Ch. 56 broadcast at 10. All of the latter are now susceptible to having to go without Sox highlights.

œBaseball is pretty much the only game in town in the summer, and without the Red Sox, we really don™t have much of a sportscast, Zannis said.

The Sox own 80 percent of NESN, with the Bruins [team stats] controlling the other 20 percent. The memo included the Bruins under the same restrictions as the Sox, which was intriguing to local producers, who say that the NHL team frequently begs for more news coverage.

WHDH-TV executive sports producer John Zannis said he was caught off guard by the arrival of the memo while his office was scrambling to put together NCAA basketball highlights.

œI™m not sure how to react, said Zannis, who has reread the document many times in hope of gaining a thorough understanding of the 10 outlined points. œI™m not sure if it™s a big deal, or are they trying to sneak a fastball by us?