WASHINGTON (CN) – New Department of the Interior rules set out requirements for commercial filming and photography on public lands. Some of the requirements apply to news gathering.
The rules are meant to align fee structures and requirements among the three DOI land management agencies. Previously, the types of commercial filming and still photography activities needing a permit varied from agency to agency.
News gathering and documentary filmmaking are considered “commercial” filming for purposes of the rules, which go into effect Sept 23. However, the DOI stated, “news gathering should not be treated in the same manner as other commercial filming activities, and the agencies intend to allow news media access to federal lands to gather news.”
News organizations may still need a permit, “when time allows and the agency determines that a permit is required to protect agency resources, to avoid visitor use conflicts, to ensure public safety, or to authorize entrance into a closed area.”
“If the news story is such that the requirement for a permit would interfere with the ability of the entity to gather the required footage or photographs, then the permit requirement will be waived, but the activity is still subject to the oral instructions of the agency representative in order to protect cultural and natural resources and to maintain order and ensure the safety of the public, agency personnel, and the media” the DOI states in the current action.
Commercial filming and still photography requiring permits may be subject to location fees or cost recovery charges, which pay for the permitting process, and monitoring the activities in order to protect cultural resources.
Permits issued for news-gathering activities are not subject to these fees and charges.
A new section of the rule has been added to spell out the permit requirements and exceptions for news organizations.
Regarding commenters’ concerns of potential government censorship of protected photographic “speech,” the DOI said, “the decision to approve or deny a request for a commercial filming or still photography permit is not based on the content of the material … [but] on the potential impact the activity may have on cultural and natural resources, on other visitors, on agency operations, and on the health and safety of visitors, permittee staff and agency employees.” [brackets added]
The DOI’s response to comments that some wording was too vague and overbroad, was to clarify terms such as “model,” “sets and props” and “resource damage.”
The rules state the circumstances under which a permit may not be granted, including occasions where an agency believes the project will cause resource damage, unreasonably disrupt or conflict with the public’s use and enjoyment of the site, pose health or safety risks to the public, be incompatible with the purpose of a wildlife refuge, cause undue degradation of Bureau of Land Management lands, or violate applicable federal, state or local laws or regulations.
The rule changes also specify some requirements involved in photographing Indians and their ceremonies on Indian land. Film and television producers who hire Indian employees “must pay a fair and reasonable wage to any Indian employed in connection with the production,” the rules state.
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