News agencies seeing red over Cannes deal

Exclusive video pact will keep some off the fest's red carpet

PARIS -- Agencies are crying foul over the Festival de Cannes' exclusive deal with French broadcasters that may cause restrictions on some video coverage of the 63rd annual Riviera rendez-vous.

Festival organizers have verbally informed several of the international news agencies that regularly cover the fest that severe restrictions on access to red carpets and news conferences might prevent them from providing their usual coverage. Reuters, AFP, Getty TV and the Associated Press Television News are in negotiations with festival authorities to ensure comprehensive coverage for their news wires and clients across the globe.

These restrictions stem from deals the festival has signed with French broadcaster Canal Plus and pay TV service Orange for exclusive video coverage of the red carpets and other official events.

Typically competitive groups Reuters, Getty, the AP and the AFP have banded together to put an advisory on their public websites to say they may have to completely suspend coverage of the festival if a deal isn't made soon with fest authorities.

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"We're not sure what our next steps will be if we can't come to an agreement, but our intention now is to find a solution," said Alison Crombie, senior director of Global PR for Getty Images. "We, with the other agencies, consider this to be very unfair."

While the festival's restrictions have so far been only verbal warnings that started at the end of last year's festival, the media groups have been pressing the festival for several weeks for some kind of written deal detailing the restrictions.

The news agencies distribute their edited content to several thousand TV stations and Internet portals around the world, and the Festival de Cannes is always one of the biggest news events of the year for the global media biz.

"We believe in news organizations having adequate access to news events," a spokesperson for Reuters said.

Festival de Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux is negotiating the media presence at the fest, and doesn't see the new restrictions as cause for alarm.

"We're trying to help the news agencies as best we can," Fremaux said. "I'm in the process of negotiating so that everyone is happy."

The news agencies involved have yet to receive a written proposal for a more restricted festival coverage.

"The restrictions concern only the resale of images of the red carpet steps and the press conferences," Fremaux said. "The agencies will make the images available free for their subscribers and for the rest, the Festival de Cannes will continue to accredit members of the press so that they can do their jobs and shoot footage -- on the red carpet steps, at the press conferences, in the Palais, everywhere -- for which they have complete freedom of broadcast on their own media platforms. More than 4,000 journalists from all over the world will be accredited for the festival like every year."

However, despite the more than 4,000 journalists accredited for the fest, as far as video coverage of festival-related events goes, Canal Plus and Orange have put up money and signed exclusivity contracts making them official sponsor and giving them greater access than other media outlets.

Canal Plus will continue its monopoly over the Gallic audiovisual market and set up shop on its massive stage across from the Hotel Martinez once again to air its daily variety program "Le Grand Journal." Canal Plus' Patio next to the Palais also hosts VIP events and celebrities. Canal Plus has been an official partner of the fest for the past 16 years.

"Canal Plus has been trying to protect their red carpet coverage of the Festival de Cannes for years, so its not surprising that something like this would happen," said Gael Golhen, editor in chief of French entertainment site Premiere.fr.

Rival pay TV group France Telecom subsidiary Orange has been upping its presence at the fest to compete with Canal Plus. The "Orange Beach" boasts a restaurant which has become the unofficial central hub for all of the action in the French film biz during the festival, and Orange confirmed that it has renewed its contract to invest in and produce the fest's own TV network TV Festival this year alongside Canal Plus and the festival itself.

TV Festival is broadcast 24 hours a day for the 12 days of the festival to more than 8 million subscribers in France, overseas French territories and French-speaking Africa on satellite, ADSL, cable and mobile networks, and employs 120 on-site staff. TV Festival provides "exclusive" coverage in both French and English of red carpets, photo calls, interviews, news conferences and special reports. All of those images and pre-edited feature segments are distributed in France and abroad to various local media outlets.

"The Cannes Film Festival is a major launch pad for key movies and is no longer just about France. It's a place where everyone wants center stage, so as festival become more international, the coverage has to reflect the nature of the films being showcased," Crombie said.

Orange and Canal Plus refused comment on their exclusivity clauses and the situation with the international media agencies.

The Festival de Cannes and the local media will meet next week for the annual Paris news conference to announce this year's lineup.
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