American Writers' Strike threatens Annual Awards Season

Hollywood's 2008 awards season is at risk of becoming the most high profile casualty so far of a strike by the Writers' Guild of America (WGA) which began two months ago in a dispute with studios. No compromise is yet in sight as WGA members demand to be paid for TV shows or films broadcast over the Internet. Studios say that online technology is untested and agreeing fees now could prevent them from experimenting with new methods of distribution. Hit shows such as Lost and Heroes could disappear from TV screens as the writers' protest spreads. (The Times, 29 December 2007)

A picket at next month's Golden Globes will be followed by one at the Oscars, the WGA has warned. Those who turn up for the awards, either to hand them out or receive them, could face 3,000 angry writers. However, it is also possible that the usual star-studded crowd will not attend as the actors' union, the Screen Actors Guild, is preparing for its own negotiations with film producers next year and stars are showing firm support for striking writers. Presenters or even nominees may decide to stay at home. (The Sunday Times, 30 December 2007)

Jeff Jarvis, former media executive turned internet guru and author of the Buzz-machine blog said:
'I think we will look back on the strike as a watershed moment in the media industry. …Media companies will have to get used to smaller audiences and cater to specific tastes. …The TV audience is increasingly turning to the Internet for entertainment, but a continued strike will hasten that process and threaten the waning supremacy of the big TV network.' (The Sunday Times,30 December 2007)

The Internet and video games are taking up more of TV audience time. High-speed broadband internet connections have grown and TV increasingly looks to the internet to find a new audience. Internet programming and a share of digital rights are at the heart of the writers' contract dispute. (The Sunday Times 30 December 2007)

Look at the Times 100 UNISON case study, which examines the communication activities of Britain's biggest trade union. The case study considers how UNISON provides support for its members in potential problems encountered between employees and employers. The study shows how it uses a range of methods to help its members deal with the many issues they face within their workplaces.


Will most glamorous night of the year be a write-off?-The Times (print edition), 29 December 2007

TV counts cost as strike hits home – The Sunday Times (print edition), 30 December 2007

The Times Online – Will the Oscars, the most glamorous night of the year, be a write-off?  29 December 2007

The Times Online – TV counts cost as strike hits home, 30 December 2007

The Time 100 Case Study – Unison, Using effective communications

Potential Study Questions:

  • What are the benefits to employees of being a member of a union, especially when technological changes affect working conditions or pay?
  • Technology affects all aspects of business.Discuss in what other ways changing technology may affect a workforce – for better or for worse.