AAN Drafts Open Letter on Restrictive Credentialing Agreements

november 12, 2015  12:00 pm
Recent years have seen a concerning trend in the area of credentialing. Reporters and photographers who want to gain access to events in a way that allows for optimal coverage are regularly being asked to sign away certain rights in exchange for better locations and the opportunity to take photos and videos in ways the public can’t.

AAN has been very active in terms of trying to educate our members regarding what we believe are increasingly restrictive credentialing agreements. What began as an issue primarily centered around sports coverage, with our focus squarely on the credentials issued professional sporting leagues and events like the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NASCAR, as well as the biggest conferences at the college level, is now becoming a big problem in the entertainment world as well.

To be clear: The problem regarding credentials isn't new. It just seems that those issuing the credentials are becoming even bolder in what they exact in return for granting reporters, photographers and videographers access.

AAN cannot tell you when you should or should not sign credentials when they are put in front of you. We can’t recommend an organization-wide position on whether members should sign a particular set of credentials or not. All we can do is try and educate you on what common restrictions mean to allow you to best decide whether the access gained to a concert or other event is worth the rights you are giving up. We feel as though we have fallen somewhat short in that regard in recent years as we continue to see credentials issued (and agreed to) which exact a significant price in return.

That’s why we decided to join with several other organizations, 12 total to be specific, in drafting this “Open Letter” to performing artists which explains our position regarding restrictive credentialing agreements and the effect they have not only on the media but the public at large.

The letter identifies some of the more egregious requests we’ve seen in credentials this year, including requests for joint or even outright ownership of the photos or videos a photographer takes, and even inserting themselves into your newsrooms by demanding a right to pre-approve which photos or videos will accompany a story or appear on your websites. All while granting you approximately 30 to 60 seconds worth of access in most instances.

While these are on the extreme end, they are not entirely unique. We’ve seen one or more of these in various credentialing restrictions in the past year alone, ranging from Janet Jackson’s “Unbreakable” tour to Taylor Swift’s “1989” tour to the Foo Fighters. AAN, with others, has reached out to some artists to try and explain why certain credentialing agreements, or specific provisions, are problematic. Sometimes the artists listens, but more often they don’t. Sometimes papers stand up for themselves, like the Washington City Paper did this year in refusing to sign credentials issued by the Foo Fighters for a July 4 show in DC and, further, by writing about it. But more often, the credential is signed without protest.

The point of our Open Letter then, is to simply make sure people really understand what’s at stake. Again, it is not intended to organize a boycott or other group action. It is to educate – to make sure that artists, the media and the public understand what’s at stake here.

So please read it, think about it, know that you can come to us with questions if you have them. And, if you really want, feel free to publish this letter in your own papers as an Op-Ed or column to help raise awareness about how the delicate balance between performing artists and the media is being threatened at the public’s expense.