Top international news agencies, including the Associated Press and Reuters, are up in arms against the Venice Film Festival over what they claim are restrictions to access footage of the fest’s star-studded red carpet activities and press conferences.
In past years, the agencies have been able to give their clients more or less unlimited amounts of Venice footage, excluding live feeds. Upon arrival on the Lido this year, with no forewarning, agency video teams collected their red carpet accreditation on opening day and were then handed a form to sign telling them there is a 90-second limit, the groups allege.
The 90-second limit is allegedly due to Italian media regulation that was always in existence, but is only being enforced this year.
Another novelty this year is that the festival is not allowing any agency cameras into the press conferences, a practice which had started during the height of the COVID pandemic, “but there is no reason it should happen now,” says a veteran Venice news agency operator on the TV side.
The alleged 90-second limit law — the terms of which are still unclear — is being enforced following a new deal that the fest’s parent organization, the Venice Biennale, has made with its media partner, Italian state broadcaster RAI. In turn, this year RAI has a deal to sell its Venice opening and closing ceremony footage, as well as its red carpet and press conferences content, to French pay-TV operator Canal+.
“They are saying that RAI has an exclusive on the opening and closing ceremony and red carpet access and that’s how it is and we have to abide by it,” the Venice veteran says.
“We’ve all been completely taken by surprise by all this and we are here already so it’s very difficult to try and make any changes. We’ve met as a collective group of eight with the festival and they are not budging on it at all. They just keep citing this Italian law” that says they can only run a maximum of 90 seconds. This restriction is being placed on all TV media, not just the agencies.
The irony in the situation is that the agencies are invited press and they have camera access to the red carpet which they are filming. But this year, they are only allowed to use 90-seconds of their own recorded footage.
The only concession that Venice has made is that they have said they will allow agency cameras into the press conferences. But they can only use 90-seconds of that recorded footage.
“That kind of defeats the purpose,” says the Venice veteran. “The problem we have is that they are restricting the story we can tell. And the press conference is the only place at the festival where we get our story. Unless you’ve got one-on-one access. Then that’s where everybody should be able to get their story.”
“I don’t know of any other festival where that happens. At any other festival the pool [recorded] feed of a festival would always be unrestricted. And nobody has ever restricted what we can run of our own material anywhere on any event… It’s highly unusual, it’s very restrictive. It seems to be impeding our freedom as journalists.”
The Venice Film Festival said on Saturday they had no immediate comment, but would investigate that matter further.
Deadline was first to report this news of agencies’ frustrations regarding restrictions at the festival.