AP Protests Fox's Handout Photo Policy

Media titans at odds over Fox decision to bar photographers from its news conferences at the Television Critics Association press tour.

The Associated Press has threatened to boycott coverage of Fox at the Television Critics Association press tour unless the network eases up on its policy barring photographers from its events.

Fox hopes to control the coverage of its news conferences by excluding press photographers and distributing handout photos by photographers it has hired, a move AP says interferes with its ability to fully report the event and sets a bad precedent.

"Fox wants to make sure the images from their publicity event are flattering to the network by controlling the content and distribution of the pictures," David Ake, the AP's deputy director of photography, explained in an AP news story detailing the controversy. "The problem for the AP is that, just as we wouldn't let Fox write our stories, we can't have them shooting our pictures."

The Television Critics Association press tour takes place twice a year in Los Angeles, and offers television networks a chance to promote upcoming shows in front of the working press.

According to the AP's story, Ake has been in discussions with Fox to resolve the dispute, but so far has made no progress.

Speaking to the Hollywood trade magazine Variety, Fox spokesman Joe Earley labeled it unfortunate that the news cooperative has "reacted in such an aggressive and detrimental manner."

The dispute is just the latest in a string of attempts by corporations and institutions to control the images news agencies distribute. In January, NBC asked news services to pay a $1,200 fee for handout photographs taken by the network inside the ballroom during the Golden Globe Awards. AP, Agence-France Press, Getty Images, and Reuters refused on the grounds that the handout policy was too restrictive. The NBC handout policy, for example, meant that the photos cannot be sold, resold or stored in archives.

The White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) has been a vocal critic of handout photos, in particular those distributed by the White House.

On its website, the WHNPA explains its policy regarding handout photos: "The WHNPA believes that dealing with handout photos at the time handout restrictions are imposed is the best way to stop the trend of preventing independent press coverage of an event. In doing so, we can prevent organizers or governments from imposing additional restrictions down the line. Ensuring our ability of the independent press to cover events of public interest should be our main priority."

Jay DeFoore can be reached at editor@popphoto.com.

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