Striking Hollywood writers said Friday they had decided not to picket the Golden Globe Awards because organizers of Sunday’s event changed it from an exclusive NBC broadcast to an event open to all media.
The Writers Guild of America issued a brief statement saying it had given the Hollywood Foreign Press Association its assurance that writers would not protest outside the news conference where winners will be announced.
The association announced the expanded media access earlier in the day, marking a reversal of NBC’s intent to cover the strike-affected event exclusively for television. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft.)
“Under the new arrangement, there will be no restrictions placed on media outlets covering the press conference,” the association said in a brief statement.
The announcement came after behind-the-scenes wrangling between the association and NBC over the format of the unusual broadcast.
The event was scaled down from the traditionally glitzy ceremony after actors refused to cross the threatened picket lines of striking Hollywood writers.
NBC initially said the Golden Globes would be an exclusive program for the network, which was treating it as a news event in which no money would change hands between NBC and the press association.
Along with losing out on its reported $5 million to $6 million license for the full-blown ceremony, the association also saw NBC shut out other TV outlets and give NBC Universal’s “Access Hollywood” anchors Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush starring roles in the announcement.
NBC did not immediately respond to e-mail or phone requests for comment.
By moving the awards announcement to the news division, where workers are not part of the Writers Guild of America dispute, the network also was hoping to keep away guild pickets.
The guild said it did not have immediate comment on the revised announcement plans.
The collapse of the Globes ceremony is an ominous sign for the Academy Awards, which are scheduled to air Feb. 24 on ABC. The writers guild refused to grant waivers for its members to work on the Oscars or the Globes.
Globes organizers were faced with the lack of star power after the Screen Actors Guild said it had encouraged its members to skip the show in support of the two-month walkout by the writers union.
That led NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to devise the news conference approach for the Globes broadcast that had been intended to showcase the likes of nominees Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington.
There were also announced plans for other Globe-related shows, including a “Dateline NBC” program with clips and interviews with nominees, and a show covering Globe parties.
Besides Jolie and Washington, this year’s nominees include such other A-listers as George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Keira Knightley, Cate Blanchett and Johnny Depp.
NBC received some criticism for the way it shifted responsibility for the Golden Globes to its news division, with some wondering whether the entertainment division was driving what should be independent news coverage.
“It’s just more ammunition for those who say true journalism no longer exists in these organizations, that they have become lapdogs in some way,” said Deborah Potter, a former CBS correspondent who runs the Newslab think tank.
But a former NBC News producer said the Globes are a legitimate news event that NBC and others would cover anyway.
“I don’t think that it’s unusual,” said Joseph Angotti, who now teaches journalism at Monmouth College. “It’s tricky, there’s no question about it. But I don’t think it’s a journalism problem for NBC.”
Potter said she understands how some in NBC’s news division have to weigh the journalistic issues versus the economic ones.
“You have to weigh embarrassment versus money,” she said. “In this current economy, embarrassment may not win.”