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Ottawa Jazz Festival blacklists OttawaJazzScene.ca for 6th year

OttawaJazzScene.ca will not be reporting from the 2016 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival.

For the sixth consecutive year, OttawaJazzScene.ca's team was rejected by the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival when we applied for accreditation to cover the summer 2016 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Suzan Zilahi, the festival's Director of Marketing & Partnerships, informed OttawaJazzScene.ca by email on June 12 that OttawaJazzScene.ca journalist and founder Brett Delmage was denied accreditation, as he has been since 2011. Editor Alayne McGregor was accredited as she has been since 2012, for both summer and winter festivals; Delmage was rejected. In 2011, OttawaJazzScene.ca was refused all access to the festival.

After careful consideration, we replied to the festival, informing them that we would not be covering the festival. We explained that we operated as a team, and that a jazz festival the size of the Ottawa Jazz Festival and with so many overlapping concerts cannot be properly reported on by only one journalist, and without an experienced photo/video journalist. We did ask the festival to consider reversing its decision. As of June 26 (four days after the festival began), no response had been received.

In 2014, in response to the accreditation denial, Zilahi was asked by OttawaJazzScene.ca Editor McGregor "Could you please inform me why Brett Delmage is 'declined to a photographer's pass'? Photography is an essential part of OttawaJazzScene.ca's editorial content. We have used many photos in our articles about this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival (and in previous years) because it's what our audience expects. It is an essential part of communicating the story about the music that the festival presents."

Zilahi responded only with "Management reserves the right to provide media and photographer passes at its own discretion."

Our two-person team has been accredited by and reported multiple times from the Montreal Jazz Festival, Guelph Jazz Festival, Merrickville's Jazzfest (with which OttawaJazzScene.ca had a media partnership in 2014 and 2015), Ottawa Chamberfest, and on an ongoing basis at Canada's National Arts Centre. Our experience reporting at these other festivals has been that of very long, busy, and demanding days.

The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival accredited OttawaJazzScene.ca journalists in 2008 and 2009. It immediately ceased its accreditation in June 2010, after Delmage asked for compensation for his photographic work which he observed had been reproduced without his permission, including in an advertisement to buy tickets, and without attribution of his photos in an Ottawa Jazz Festival publication where all other photographers were credited.

In September 2011, 16 months after the matter was first brought to the festival's attention and four days before trial, the Ottawa Jazz Festival agreed to Delmage's proposal for an out-of-court settlement. He considered the matter satisfactorily closed.

OttawaJazzScene.ca has reported about other TD Ottawa Jazz Festival events which did not require accreditation, most recently the 24-hour Jazz Ramble in The Record Centre, which Delmage attended and covered all 24 hours.

The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival received $135,003 in funding from City of Ottawa taxpayers and $270,000 from Ontario taxpayers in 2014 alone. It must be accountable to the Ottawa and Ontario public which funds it, and to the Canadian taxpayer which pays for travel grants for many Canadian musicians performing at the festival – and whose performances we are prevented from reporting about.

As a registered charity that receives substantial annual public funding, we believe that the Ottawa Jazz Festival has an obligation to provide full and proper accreditation and access to OttawaJazzScene.ca and other legitimate news media at its festival.

OttawaJazzScene.ca would like to support the Canadian jazz scene by informing listeners about the Canadian jazz performances at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. We cannot.

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