Monday, November 06, 2017

Country Music Association drops restrictions on journalists' questions at Wed. night awards show

After last month's mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, the gun-control debate has become a hot topic in the country-music industry, with some stars getting vocal about it and some staying out of it. But with the Country Music Association Awards coming up Wednesday night, CMA organizers last week told reporters not to ask stars about politically sensitive topics, or risk being removed by security. The topic takes on added significance after this weekend's mass shooting at a Texas church.

From the CMA's press guidelines: "In light of recent events, and out of respect for the artists directly or indirectly involved, please refrain from focusing your coverage of the CMA Awards Red Carpet and Backstage Media Center on the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like. It’s vital, more so this year than in year’s [sic] past due to the sensitivities at hand, that the CMA Awards be a celebration of Country Music and the artists that make this genre so great. It’s an evening to honor the outstanding achievements in Country Music of the previous year and we want everyone to feel comfortable talking to press about this exciting time. If you are reported as straying from these guidelines, your credential will be reviewed and potentially revoked via security escort."

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Here's where it gets interesting: CMA Awards co-host Brad Paisley admonished organizers in a tweet the next day, and several other country musicians tweeted their support of Paisley. Shortly afterward, the CMA retracted the policy and released an apology.

Country music stars have tried to stay politically neutral in recent years. "Industry insiders still cite the Dixie Chicks (who criticized George W. Bush in 2003 and were basically blacklisted from the format) as the reason country artists are fearful of speaking up about divisive subjects, particularly given that much of their fan base leans conservative," Emily Yahr reports for The Washington Post. "The genre also has close ties to the National Rifle Association through its lifestyle brand, NRA Country, which partners with lots of Nashville singers." Could Paisley's insistence on journalistic freedom signal greater willingness among country singers to speak out on politically sensitive topics?

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