Disney backs off blacklist of LA Times amid mounting media boycott

Disney backs off blacklist of LA Times amid mounting media boycott
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The Walt Disney Company has backed off its decision to blacklist the Los Angeles Times from advance film screenings following the paper's investigation into Disney business dealings that the company felt was unfairly critical.

“We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics,” Disney said in a statement.

The New York Times had joined a growing media boycott of Disney on Tuesday, citing Disney's actions to bar The Los Angeles Times as "dangerous precedent."

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“The New York Times will not attend preview screenings of Disney films until access is restored to the Los Angeles Times,” a spokesperson told TheWrap. “A powerful company punishing a news organization for a story they do not like is meant to have a chilling effect. This is a dangerous precedent and not at all in the public interest.”

“Disney’s response should gravely concern all who believe in the importance of a free press, artists included," the paper added.

The Washington Post pop culture columnist Alyssa Rosenberg began a boycott on Monday by declaring she would stop attending advance screenings of Disney films.

“As long as Disney is blocking the critics from the Los Angeles Times from press screenings, I can’t in good conscience attend similar showings or write reviews in advance,” Rosenberg wrote on Monday. She included a photo from the upcoming "Star Wars" movie that promises to be the film industry's biggest moneymaker of the year upon its release in December.

 

Later Monday, the A.V. Club entertainment website and The Boston Globe's Ty Burr joined Rosenberg in her boycott, as did acclaimed author and writer David Simon.

 

The boycott gained steam from there, with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics all saying they would work toward disqualifying Disney from award considerations until the blackout was rescinded.

“Disney’s actions are antithetical to the principles of a free press and set a dangerous precedent in a time of already heightened hostility towards journalists,” reads the joint statement.

The Disney studio banned the Los Angeles Times from access to its screenings and talent last week, calling the 136-year-old publication's coverage “biased and inaccurate."

"This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public," the newspaper informed its readers one day later.

Disney responded the same day by accusing the paper of a “complete disregard” for journalistic standards.

“We regularly work with news organizations around the world that we don’t always agree with, but in this instance the L.A. Times showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards,” Disney said in its statement.

“Despite our sharing numerous indisputable facts with the reporter, several editors, and the publisher over many months, the Times moved forward with a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda–so much so that the Orange County Register referred to the report as ‘a hit piece’ with a ‘seemingly predetermined narrative.’ We’ve had a long relationship with the L.A. Times, and we hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future.”

The controversy comes amid reports that 21st Century Fox is internally discussing selling most of the company to Disney.