Strike deadlock cancels TCA press tour



UPDATED 9:35 a.m. PT Dec. 11

The January TCA press tour became the latest casualty of the writers strike. Dave Walker sent word to members of the Television Critics Association Monday night that he has reluctantly become the first TCA president ever to cancel one of the biannual press tours.

"The machinations that forced this outcome were outside our control," he told members. "It was and remains the TCA's preference to stage a January 2008 TV tour, strike or not. Given the current woeful state of the negotiations, as well as broadcast network reluctance to present during a strike, that does not appear possible."

Last week, Walker said he would wait until the end of this week before making a decision. He sped up the decision, he said, because prospects of a settlement were dim and the host hotel, the Universal City Hilton, will need as much time as possible to fill the space previously committed to the press tour. After two weeks of negotiations, the WGA and AMPTP broke off talks Friday night, and there is doubt if the two sides would go back to the table any time soon.

TCA and the networks began mulling how to proceed with the winter press tour, a traditionally glitzy gathering that includes all-day panel sessions showcasing midseason series as well as nightly parties.

Faced with the possibility of a boycott by creators and stars as well as looking to cut costs in a time of a strike, NBC became the first network to pull out of the press tour a week into the writers work stoppage, while the other broadcast nets were noncommittal.

Walker had tried to persuade the broadcasters that a tour during the strike would be as valuable as a normal tour with TV critics nationwide given an opportunity to explore the positions of both sides in the labor dispute, as well as report on network plans for substitute programs.

Up until last week, the TCA also had a fallback plan in case the strike stretched into January and the broadcast networks would not participate. It included a shorter tour featuring PBS and the cable networks, all confirmed to present, as well as TCA-sponsored panels. That unraveled, though, when a couple of weeks later PBS changed its mind and opted not to take part in the tour and several cable networks, including the MTV nets, also reconsidered their previous decisions to participate.

In his message to critics Monday, Walker nixed the idea that this cancellation threatened future tours, either in January or July. "It's the TCA's intention to continue the TV Tour in both January and July for the indefinite future," he said. Walker said he is poised to sign a contract for a tour next January and has heard no objections from the networks.