Tragically Hip's Rob Baker defends news photographer ban at Kingston show

Tragically Hip guitarist Rob Baker has weighed in on the debate over the lack of media access to the band's historic concert last weekend, defending the decision to bar news photographers from the venue.

Pictures of concert provided by promoter

Tragically Hip guitarist Rob Baker defended the concert promoter's decision to bar news photographers from the venue, saying there wasn't enough space to accommodate them. (CBC)

Tragically Hip guitarist Rob Baker has weighed in on the debate over the lack of media access to the band's historic concert last weekend, defending the decision to bar news photographers from the venue.

"Does anyone feel that there has been a lack of coverage of this? That the public hasn't been served?" Baker tweeted Wednesday.

"I agree that it is an interesting debate but the bottom line in this case was the logistics of space, safety and fairness."

During the band's summer Man Machine Poem tour, news photographers were allowed in venues to take pictures for the first few songs, as is the customary practise for most music concerts.

Yet for the final concert of this tour in the band's hometown of Kingston, concert promoter Live Nation said the venue, which holds just under 7,000 people, was too small and wouldn't have been able to accommodate all those news photographers.

Instead, no news photographers were granted access and news agencies had to rely on photos provided by the promoter. 

This picture was taken and supplied by Live Nation, the Tragically Hip concert promoter (Mike Homer/Live Nation)

"Close friends who are photographers, some who have worked with the band for 20+ yrs were redirected to other shows," Baker tweeted.

'No room & no lack of coverage'

Baker agreed that space was an issue, and said the band's own photographer was almost knocked out by a moving camera.

"No room & no lack of coverage. 14 shows were available, 1 [not, for] valid reasons," Baker tweeted.

The following is a Twitter exchange between Baker and CBC News Managing Editor Steve Ladurantaye: 

(On the app? Click here)

That action to bar news photographers from the Kingston show has prompted criticism from some journalists, who argued they were not just being denied access to a rock concert, but were being kept out of an historic news event, and one that was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Indeed, Trudeau's own official photographer was at the event and took pictures that he posted on social media. 

In a piece for TVO.org, The Canadian Press editor-in-chief Stephen Meurice suggested this ban was just part of a troubling trend of limitations being placed on journalists' access to various kinds of events.

"Using handout pictures produced and controlled by a person or organization we cover removes our ability to exercise that editorial independence," Meurice wrote. "The images become, essentially, promotional material, and we do not distribute such material as part of our news file."

As well, the presence of the prime minister made it more important that news photographers be there, in case he was involved  in an unexpected incident, he said.

The Canadian Press and Reuters declined to distribute the promoter's pictures. CP argued it's the news agency's policy not to use handouts if CP journalists are barred from shooting an event. 

We've seen the same photograph from every single venue on the whole tour. I just don't think it's worth getting your knickers in a twist about it.- Richard Flohil, Toronto music promoter

Yet Baker asked why the Canadian Press should be let in and not, for example, the Kingston Whig-Standard.

"It's a concert and ultimately between us and the people who have supported us for 30+ yrs buying tkts n albums," he tweeted.

Paula Danylevich, a Canadian music publicist, said the issue has been blown way out of proportion and that she is surprised by the reaction of the Canadian Press. She also said she doesn't believe a CP pool photographer should have been granted access to the concert.

"As someone who has vetted hundreds of media requests for photo passes for numerous bands over the years, I believe The Hip would have suffered 10 times the backlash if they would have granted access to just one media outlet, or a small handful," said Danylevich, who has worked with a long list of Canadian and international artists including Matthew Good, Moist, Nelly Furtado, and Motley Crue.

She said she has worked on numerous tours over the years where artists put a cap on how many photographers are granted access.

"I can tell you it's no easy job to decide who gets approved. You will always piss someone off."

She said it's not that uncommon for artists to ban media photography, and audience photography, at their concerts and that Black Sabbath, The Killers, Prince, and Beyoncé have all banned photographers in the past.

Beyoncé has banned news photographers from her concerts. (Daniela Vesco/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/Associated Press)

Toronto-based veteran music promoter Richard Flohil said he wasn't "losing any sleep" over the fact that the media didn't get access to the show, and the pictures distributed by the concert promoter or those made available by Trudeau's photographer were sufficient. 

"If you've got a good photograph from somewhere else, use it, credit it and get over the fact that you didn't get a free ticket to take photographs of the thing in the first place," Flohil said.

"We've seen the same photograph from every single venue on the whole tour," he added. "I just don't think it's worth getting your knickers in a twist about it."​


Mark Gollom


Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.


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