Associated Press Drops CMA Awards Coverage After Being Barred From Using Images of Attendees

Two scheduled performers have dropped out after testing positive for COVID-19

The 53rd Annual CMA Awards - Show
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

The Associated Press is refusing to cover tonight’s Country Music Association Awards after a dispute with the association over photo access, the wire service said Wednesday.

After first refusing AP photographers access to the in-person Nashville ceremony, which will be broadcast on ABC, the CMA has also barred the AP from using screenshots of the event that feature the faces of guests seated in the audience.

No tickets were sold for the event, which is being held at Nashville’s Music City Center, but nominees, performers and their guests will be present in-person. CMA Awards executive producer Robert Deaton has promised a “fully safe and physically distant environment.”

In a statement, the AP’s entertainment editor Anthony McCartney said the photo restrictions would prevent the AP from adequately covering the event.

“The AP covers award shows as news events and we must be able to assure the public that the information they are receiving from us is accurate,” he said. “By denying independent news organizations, including AP, access to take images of a publicly broadcast event, the CMA Awards is infringing upon the news media’s ability to tell the full story of the event.”

Representatives for the CMA have not returned TheWrap’s request for comment, but the AP said the association refused to lift the restrictions as recently as Tuesday. CMA would only allow the wire service to license photos from the show or share screenshots that do not show audience members.

The dispute is the latest bump in a rocky road for the CMA Awards over recent weeks. Two of the night’s scheduled performers — Lee Brice and Florida Georgia Line member Tyler Hubbard — have had to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19.

In a statement to Rolling Stone earlier this week, the CMA said the positive tests were “incredibly disappointing” but provided reassurance that “our protocols are working.” Neither Brice nor Hubbard appeared on-set prior to their positive tests.

“We have an incredible show planned and look forward to bringing the Country Music community together,” the CMA statement said.


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