Broadcasters protest red carpet restrictions at Venice Film Festival – The Hollywood Reporter
The Venice Film Festival has, for the first time in its history, blocked news services and international broadcasters, other than Italian state broadcaster RAI TV, from filming the festival’s press conferences and has severely restricted the amount of footage they are allowed to use from the Venice red gala the carpets.
The decision, which veteran festival-goers call “unprecedented”, raised the AP, Getty and Reuters news services. The three groups, which provide daily video footage and media coverage of the festival to broadcasters around the world, have written a joint letter to the festival protesting the restrictions, which they say were imposed on them at the last minute.
“The first time we heard about it was on Wednesday [the first day of the festival] when, before we could get our accreditation back, we had to sign a waiver, in Italian, binding us to these new rules,” said an editor of one of the big three news services, speaking under cover of anonymity while their company “figures out its legal situation.
Citing “Italian law,” the restrictions state that news services can use a maximum of 90 seconds of footage from each red carpet event. At last night’s premiere for bones and all, which would have pretty much covered star Timothée Chalamet getting out of his car and heading towards the crowd of cheering fans. For the festival’s press conferences, video news services have been completely banned and can only use 90 seconds of footage provided to them by RAI, the festival’s official broadcaster.
“It basically prevents us from reporting on the festival, from doing the work we came here to do,” said a reporter from one of the major news services. “You can’t tell the story of a complicated movie in 90 seconds, with just a few sound bites.”
Venice’s official broadcaster, RAI, which has largely paid for this privilege, agrees to film every red carpet and every official press conference of the 79th Biennale festival in exchange for some exclusivity. This, in itself, is nothing new. Many major events — from film festivals to awards shows to sports tournaments — are signing similar broadcast deals. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, French public broadcaster France Télévisions was the only channel allowed to film the opening and closing ceremonies, for example, with other broadcasters having to use their footage. But Venice never told third-party broadcasters there were limits to how much of their own footage they could use.
“The idea that we can’t use material that we shot ourselves, to which we have the copyright, is absurd,” a news service editor said.
Others accused the Venice festival of violating media access laws by not letting broadcasters film press conferences.
“The red carpet is one thing, but not letting us into press conferences means our reporters can’t do their job,” another editor noted. “Often the press conference is the only opportunity we have to ask questions of the director or the stars of a film.”
The restrictions may have wider implications for the marketing and promotion of film screenings in Venice. One of the main draws of a festival premiere on the Lido is the extensive global coverage of galas and press conferences on the red carpet, coverage that helps build buzz around a film and can be used to arouse public interest before its release. Netflix, which has four films competing at Venice this year, has an exclusive deal with Getty to shoot all of its red carpet premieres but will now only be able to legally use a minute and a half of each. Netflix declined to comment for this story.
When asked, the Venice Film Festival declined to comment for this story, but the law cited in the new regulations appears to be a reference to EU media access law. The legislation obliges networks that have exclusive broadcast contracts for major public events in Europe to provide some of their footage to third-party broadcasters.
The law states that a “minimum” of 90 seconds must be provided. The law was designed to ensure that the media could not be excluded from major events in which it was deemed that there was a clear public interest. A broadcasting official familiar with the legislation called its use to restrict access to the media a “subversion of the spirit of the law”.
Representatives from the press services met with the festival on Friday to discuss the restrictions but, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on substance, said they did not expect anything to change this year.
“It’s something we have to accept, unfortunately,” one editor noted. “But if these rules remain in place, we will have to reassess whether we want to return to the Venice Film Festival next year.”
The Hollywood Reporter has contacted RAI for comment.