Anime Expo issued a statement on their website regarding few revisions to Youth Protection program:
The main revision is the part:
- Optional background checks for Artist Alley Participants, Exhibitors, Press, Guests of Honor, Performers and Vendors, though all are strongly encouraged to join the initiative and to take the training videos materials available at SPJA’S Youth Protection Portal.
In other words, Anyone between AA, Press, and Vendors do not have to submit background check. However, they ‘strongly encourage’ to join the initiative and watch the video.
While the leash has been loosened on people listed above, all SPJA members and volunteers still have to submit background check. Whether they have to pay it themselves or SPJA will compensate remains to be seen.
Few days ago, reports surfaced which indicated that Anime Expo now requires background check for all Vendors, Artists, Press, Guests of Honor, Volunteers, Industry,
and even Superheroes & Mutants.
You can read their ‘SPJA Youth Protection Policy’ here: http://shiftboard.s3.amazonaws.com/sites/865793/docs/5716b05452d8b413.pdf
I suppose this is Anime Expo’s way of reduce creepers at conventions, but this method comes with greater risk than rewards.
To put it simply, if you are not a company or permanent part of that company, you are subjected to background check. In addition, you have to pay anywhere between $50 for the check if you have not been screened previously.
This will definitely affect following people:
- Small-scale press (Basically, anyone not named ‘Anime News Network’)
- Volunteers for AX
- Volunteers for vendors
- Artist Alley
- Freelance industry people
Wow, that’s a lot of people.
First of all, $50 is quite huge for small press and a lot of volunteers. It will be bad enough paying for hotel (or parking if you are commuting), food, and now you have to add half of 100 dollars to that budget? Times are still tough and this will not make the weekend budgeting any easier. Even if you have the money, it’s the principle that matters. This shows that Anime Expo has no faith in people that make up 40% of their convention, which is just ridiculous. It’s already been bad enough for press, where there have been numerous miscommunication between press and panel workers. I remember couple years ago, when Keiji Inafune held Mighty No. 9 panel, there were severe miscommunication regarding front-row seat for press. At first we were told there will be no press-reserved seat, and it took some minutes for them to actually acknowledge and line us right next to panel room. This background check initiative will further add wall to what has been already a lukewarm relationship.
Second, this will not eliminate the real problem with creepers, and there are two reasons for this. The main one is that 90% of creepers come to convention as ATTENDEES! That’s right, the category that is NOT subjugated to this background check. Most creepers are people who bought weekend badge like everyone else, Often, you hear the tales of photographers creeping on cosplayers, but they’re not classified under press or industry. Anime Expo stopped handing out press badges to anyone with only a DSLR and set-ups. You have to own a website and maintain them with actual news instead of just photos, and that’s been going on for few years now. So those photographers, they can still come in as attendees without any re-precautions.
The second reason is that most of the creepers have no records. The creepy tales within cosplay community often results in the creeper getting ex-communicated, but not reported to police. Sure, there have been few cases where police actually got involved, but in terms of ratio that’s about 1:10. So you’re running this initiative to protect the attendees, but how can you screen these predators if they have no record to begin with? By the time things escalate to worst case scenario, it would be too late, you have potentially wasted people’s money on background check, this whole ‘Youth Protection’ program will be viewed as a waste, and Anime Expo’s relationship with press/volunteers/exhibitors will be strained for years to come.
This program is already getting negative reactions from the people who thought of going to Anime Expo, and it will only get worse unless Anime Expo comes up with better alternative plan. This issue will be kept under surveillance, but given how close it is to July, I don’t expect any changes to come. If Anime Expo truly want this convention to be family-friendly and proper industry-like, then perhaps they should look within themselves first….