Dispute over access prompts AP to drop CMA Awards coverage

The Associated Press has pulled out of its planned coverage of Wednesday’s Country Music Association Awards show

NEW YORK -- 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.

The association instead said the AP could license images of the show. The AP declined. In the world of news photography, a license means paying for images. The CMA says it was not seeking compensation for a license.

The AP insists that if it covers the event, it be done so without restrictions on images that are publicly broadcast.

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.”