A friend tipped me off to this breathless article at knoxnews.com.
The Society of Professional Journalists and 18 journalism-advocacy organizations signed onto an Oct. 19 letter opposing Department of Interior attempts to codify agency rules on photography, filming and sound-recording on the public lands it administers.
According to Regulations.gov , The Department of the Interior is seeking to revise filming regulations by implementing legislation that would require fees for commercial filming activities or similar projects, such as still photography, and to respond to applicants for commercial filming or still photography permits in a timely manner.
Although current agency policy exempts “news coverage” from permit requirements, only “breaking” or “spot” news such as a wildfires or presidential photo opportunities are referenced as being exempt in agency documentation. While the current proposal is not a drastic shift in policy, it attempts to compromise the work of journalists because it allows representatives from the National Park Service, the Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management to determine what is considered newsworthy, and who is considered a journalist. Additionally, the proposal would allow the governing agency to charge fees for commercial filming.
I call baloney.
I'm not with the NPS at the moment, and I was never anything approaching management, but I know no park will ever turn down any request that doesn't involve disruption to park resources or operations. The whole point is that you can't show up unannounced in the parade ground at Fort Clatsop with a TV crew and start bugging people, trampling plants, setting up lights and catering crew meals, cordoning off space, shining TV lights on antique textiles, interviewing 16-year-old GS-01 Rangers and calling them park representatives...
Commercial filming permits are issued to make sure that the job is planned and prepared with park operations in mind. If you're doing anything that might harm the resource, you'll need a complete mitigation plan in advance.
If what you're doing is inappropriate for the park, they won't let you do it. No MTV Spring Break booty dancing contests at Fort McHenry or BASE jumping at the Statue of Liberty. You can't re-film the Helm's Deep scene from The Two Towers in Yosemite Valley or broadcast Howard Stern from Independence Hall.
Fees are only charged to offset actual costs. If you're going to need a ranger following you around all day, controlling traffic flow, you'll need to pay for her services. If you're going to be sucking lots of power, you'll get to help offset the electric bill.
That kind of thing is already codified in immense detail in the NPS Management Policies manual. Astute readers might recall the ridiculous kerfuffle that arose a couple years ago, when the Evil Bush Administration® evilly re-wrote the manual.
At the time, the fuss was that the policies were a sneaky backdoor to allow people too much freedom in the parks, viz. snowmobiles & ATVs. Now, the fuss is that NPS policies will allow too little freedom in the parks, because it's apparently an unconstitutional restraint on speech to standardize the process by which car commercial filming permits are issued.
Someday, perhaps, I may be a senior Park Service civil servant. Be careful what you wish for, they say.