Venice: Broadcasters Protest “Unprecedented” Restrictions on Red Carpet, Press Conference Coverage
The Venice Film Festival has, for the first time in its history, blocked international news services and broadcasters, other than Italian state broadcaster RAI TV, from filming festival press conferences and has severely restricted how much footage they are allowed to use from Venice’s gala red carpets.
The move, which veteran festival goers are called “unprecedented” has news services AP, Getty and Reuters up in arms. The three groups, who supply daily video footage and news coverage from the festival to broadcasters around the world, have written a joint letter to the festival protesting the restrictions, which they say were sprung on them last minute.
“The first we heard of this was on Wednesday [the first day of the festival] when, before we could pick up our accreditation, we had to sign a release, in Italian, binding us to these new rules,” said an editor from one of the big three news services, speaking on condition of anonymity while their company “figures out its legal position.”
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, that would just about have covered star Timothée Chalamet exit from his car and walk up to the crowds of screaming fans. For festival press conferences, video news services have been banned entirely and can only use 90 seconds of footage supplied to them by RAI, the festival’s official broadcaster.
“It essentially prevents us from reporting on the festival, from doing the job we came here to do,” said a reporter from one of the main news services. “You can’t tell the story of a complicated film in 90 seconds, with a couple of soundbites.”
Venice’s official broadcaster, RAI, which paid handsomely for the privilege, commits to shoot every red carpet and every official festival press conference from the 79th Biennale in exchange for certain exclusivity. That, in itself, is nothing new. Many major events — from film festivals to award shows to sporting tournaments — sign similar broadcasting deals. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, French public network France Televisions was the only channel allowed to film the opening and closing ceremonies, for example, with other broadcasters having to use their images. But Venice has never before told third-party broadcasters there are limits to how much of their own footage they can use.
“The idea that we can’t use the material that we shot ourselves, for which we have the copyright, is absurd,” said one wire service editor.
Others have accused the Venice festival of violating media access laws by not letting broadcasters film the press conferences.
“The red carpet is one thing, but not letting us into the press conferences means our reporters can’t do their jobs,” notes another editor. “Often the press conference is the only opportunity we have to ask questions of the director or stars of a film.”
The restrictions may have broader implications for the marketing and promotion of the movies screening in Venice. One of the main appeals of a festival premiere on the Lido is the extensive, worldwide coverage of the red carpet galas and press conferences, coverage that helps build buzz around a movie and can be used to leverage audience interest ahead of its release. Netflix, which has four films in competition in Venice this year, has an exclusive deal with Getty to shoot all of its red carpet premieres but now will legally only be able to 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 European media access legislation. The legislation requires networks that have exclusive broadcasting contracts for major public events in Europe to provide some of their footage to third-party broadcasters.
The law stipulates that “a minimum” of 90 seconds must be provided. The law was designed to ensure that the media could not be locked out for major events in which there was judged to be a clear public interest. One broadcast executive, with knowledge of the legislation, called using it to restrict media access “a reversal of the spirit of the law.”
Representatives of the news services met with the festival on Friday to discuss the restrictions but, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on background, said they did not expect anything would change this year.
“This is something we have to accept, unfortunately,” noted one editor. “But if these rules stay in place, we will have to reassess whether we want to come back to the Venice Film Festival next year.”
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to RAI for comment.