Network Bosses Worried As Strike ApproachesBy Christian
September 22, 2000 - 10:40 PM
Yesterday, the Hollywood Radio and Television Society organised its annual luncheon with the entertainment presidents of the six national TV networks, including UPN's Tom Nunan. Michael Schneider and Josef Adalian at Variety have written a report about the event, during which the participants spoke about both this year's Fall line-up, and the dangers which the looming strikes of writers and actors pose for next year's television programming.
Of course, Nunan was good for a few interesting quotes on his network. According to him, UPN has been assured that it will survive through at least this season, "and then some." He also seemed fairly confident on UPN's Fall slate, saying he doesn't covet any of the other networks' shows. Finally, he had some confidence in his own job security, saying he would give himself a survival rating of an eight or a nine on a scale of ten, joking that he doesn't "know anyone else who wants this job". Even if he was joking, this would seem to confirm that his contract, which was recently reported to be expiring soon, has in fact been renewed.
Something which all six network bosses were worried about was the possibility of a prolonged strike by both writers and actors in the middle of next year. Collective industry contracts with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will expire on May 1 and July 1, respectively. Both guilds have indicated that they are willing to go on strike, as is evidenced by the fact that the SAG is currently in the fourth month of its strike against advertisers.
In 1988, a five-month strike had crippling effects on the entire industry, and the entertainment presidents indicated they are trying to implement measures to prevent such a thing from happening again. Most networks have ordered extra reality series (includiing UPN, as reported earlier), and they have already ordered production to begin on new shows for next year. However, even with these measures, CBS Entertainment President said Nancy Tellem said it "would be a tragedy. [...] We're still suffering from the last strike in 1988. We have to do everything we can to resolve this."
The WGA, meanwhile, does not seem very keen on resolving this matter quickly. On Monday, Reuters reported that talks between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the WGA could start as early as October, something which was supposed to have been suggested by the producers. However, today the Writers Guild endorsed traditional rather than fast-track bargaining for a new contract. Apparently, many members believed that such a sped-up process would give away much of the union's leverage, as it would eliminate much of the threat of a strike. According to the WGA, the only way in which negotiations could start earlier would be if the producers would make a contract proposal that would move in the direction of the WGA on several important economic issues.
Fortunately for producers, the Screen Actors Guild seems a little less opposed to early negotiations, as representative Greg Kizman said the WGA's action does not preclude the possibility of the SAG entering into its own contract talks before the usual date.
Of course, if a strike would indeed go ahead, Series V would be strongly affected by that. Production for the first regular episodes of the new Star Trek series would begin around the time of the actors' strike, and with so much financial interests riding on this new series it seems likely Paramount could decide to postpone the series in order to avoid the strike threat. Another possibility would be for Paramount to fast-track Series V production, but as Brannon Braga recently said he expected they would not be ready to announce anything on the new series until six months from now, this does not seem like a valid possibility.
Whatever happens, Star Trek fans can only hope that the show will not be caught up in a strike again. In 1988, the second season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' was also severely hindered by the strikes, resulting in the reuse of scripts from the never-produced 'Star Trek: Phase 2' series, as well as the clip show 'Shades of Grey'. With the franchise already less successful than it was twelve years ago, another strike-affected season could have disastrous results for the franchise's future.