Dispute over access prompts AP to drop CMA Awards coverage

NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press has pulled out of its planned coverage of Wednesday’s Country Music
Association Awards show due to restrictions that have been placed on still photographers and screen
captures of the broadcast.
The wire service has refused to accept limitations that organizers of the show have placed on images from
the venue that it believes affects its ability to accurately report on the event. The restrictions
prevent AP from providing coverage of the ceremony "to its standards," according to an
advisory it sent to members. The AP will not write about, take images of or shoot video of the show.
Representatives with the Country Music Association did not respond to requests for comment.
Organizers had initially sought AP photo coverage from inside the ceremony, but said that due to
coronavirus precautions it could not accommodate a wire service photographer.
The association instead said the AP could pay to license images of the show. The AP declined.
The AP said it would cover the show if it could take screenshots of the broadcast, as it has done
successfully for the Emmy Awards, BET Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and others. The CMA instead said it
would only grant AP permission if it agreed to not move screenshots from the broadcast that included the
faces of guests seated in the audience.
The AP insists that if it covers the event, it be done so without restrictions on images that are
publicly broadcast.
"The AP covers award shows as news events and we must be able to assure the public that the
information they are receiving from us is accurate," said Global Entertainment and Lifestyles
Editor Anthony McCartney. "By denying independent news organizations, including AP, access to take
images of a publicly broadcast event, the CMA Awards is infringing upon the news media’s ability to tell
the full story of the event."
The AP’s decision came after numerous discussions about photo access and screenshots. The association
said Tuesday the prohibition on screenshots of audience members would not be lifted.
The CMAs have had a rocky road to the telecast, with Lee Brice and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard
recently dropping out after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Country Music Association also faced criticism for a social media post it made declaring the show to
be "a no drama zone," apparently encouraging artists to remain apolitical. The association
reversed course and later said it will "welcome every artist’s right to express themselves."