12.14.2007 08:59 AM
RTNDA asks House committee to exempt journalists from fees for shooting on public lands

RTNDA president Barbara Cochran urged a House committee responsible for overseeing national parks and federal lands to revise draft rules to make clear that permit and fee regulations don’t apply to journalists or the reporting of newsworthy information.

Speaking before the House Committee on Natural Resources Dec. 12, Cochran told lawmakers that the rules as drafted might have “the unintended consequence” of impairing journalists in their reporting efforts.

In her testimony, Cochran pointed out that the draft rules exempt news coverage from permit requirements; however, they also make fees applicable to “commercial filming activities or similar projects.” Newsgathering “could be said to involve ‘commercial filming,’” she said.

The Department of the Interior has expressed a desire to standardize permit and fee requirement rules among the agencies for which it is responsible. In doing so, it “should take care not to perpetuate misinterpretation, arbitrary decision-making and extend the restrictions beyond the letter and intent of the statute upon which they are based,” she said.

Cochran pointed out existing inconsistencies in how the rules are applied at the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Florida Everglades, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park.

The RTNDA president urged the committee to revise the rules to “avoid interfering with journalists’ ability to gather and report the news.” The rules, she said, should “exempt all forms of journalistic activity, whether for breaking news or documentaries, and whether conducted by a network news crew or a freelancer.”

For more information, visit www.rtnda.org.

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