SPJ Concerned About Government Restrictions on Media Land Use

Should the government be allowed to prevent a free-lance journalist access to film in a park, or make it tougher for a public-radio sound engineer to record a wolf call (animal, not construction worker)?

The Society of Professional Journalists and other journalistic organizations say no.

The groups have gotten together to oppose any tightening of Department of the Interior rules concerning photography and sound recording on public lands.

Current department policy exempts "news coverage" from seeking permits, but only breaking and spot news are covered. According to the SPJ, proposed changes would allow representatives for the Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management to exclude documentary filmmakers and free-lancers and to decide what qualifies as newsworthy.

"Public land should be safeguarded, but the rules the department is seeking to codify simply go too far," SPJ national president Clint Brewer said. "These regulations should invite documentation and journalistic coverage of public land, not discourage it."

Although the public-comment period on the proposals is over, the SPJ urged journalists to voice their concerns to the department.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.