Striking writers pull plug on Golden Globes TV gala

There is to be no party for this year's Golden Globes usually the first big shebang of the Hollywood awards season because of a boycott urged by the entertainment industry's writers' union.

The US television network NBC sent an email to Hollywood studio bosses yesterday, confirming what everyone in the industry already knew that it would have no ceremony to televise on Sunday. Instead, NBC's camera's will record an hour-long news conference at which the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes on the Globes, would simply read out the names of the winners from a podium.

NBC still hopes to bolster coverage of the event, to which it has exclusive rights, by showing clips of the nominated films and interviews with the nominated actors and actresses. But it was not immediately clear if the footage would be available.

NBC also planned to send its cameras to previously scheduled "after parties", thrown by the studios in and around the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the Globes' traditional venue, at which winners and nominees might or might not appear to celebrate.

The loss of the Golden Globes is a bigger setback than one might think particularly for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a fringe group of mostly freelance journalists who have somehow managed to become rich and influential thanks to the advertising revenue from the NBC telecast. The studios are also losing a big promotional vehicle for their prestige projects films such as Atonement, No Country For Old Men and Sweeney Todd, which are all up for multiple awards.

Not only are they losing the ceremony itself. The loss of late-night chat shows only some of which have now returned to the air and other strike-affected outlets has severely limited the number of slots for nominated performers to give television interviews promoting their work.

Overall, it is a symbolic victory for the Writers Guild of America, which has been on strike for the past two months in an effort to win what it regards as fair compensation for online entertainment and other new outlets for its members' work.

The writers always intended to boycott any and every Hollywood awards show but the effectiveness of their walkout was bolstered when the Screen Actors Guild told its members not to cross the WGA's picket lines.

If the dispute is not resolved before next month and it seems unlikely that it will then the Oscars will go dark in much the same fashion as the Globes. The expectation is that the producers' association representing the studios will not talk to the Writers Guild again until it has negotiated a separate deal with the Directors Guild, whose own contract is up in June but whose leadership is a lot less militant than either the writers or the actors.

That means little or no prospect for a strike settlement until late February or March at the earliest eating into the production schedule for next year's network television dramas and sitcoms and potentially revolutionising the way television is made and consumed in the online era.

The writers, meanwhile, have just negotiated an independent deal with United Artists, the mini-studio run by Tom Cruise under the MGM umbrella . No details were available yesterday.

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