WGA's options span the Globes

HFPA seeks waiver to ensure that show will go on


NEW YORK -- The HFPA is looking for a way to ensure that a struck Golden Globes doesn't turn into a ghost-town Golden Globes.

If the WGA doesn't grant the awards show a strike waiver, the group is considering pitching the show to talent as a platform to stand in solidarity with writers -- a move that could turn the podium and red carpet at the Beverly Hilton into a de facto picket line.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., of course, is hoping for a full waiver that would allow the Globes to go on as it normally would. If that doesn't happen, the nominated talent would have to cross the picket line to attend. If many of them don't, the show's producers would have a significantly stripped-down event on their hands.

But instead of putting talent in an tough position where they have to choose between attendance and a boycott in support of the writers' cause, HFPA would offer them a third option: support the strike by coming to the Globes and possibly even speak out in favor of the writers there.

The group is mulling individual appeals to talent, especially those who have publicly supported the strike; it also could try to convince reluctant nominees by issuing a statement that says it stands in support of the writers.

Still, the group would need to be careful, making sure its pitches don't appear insensitive to the WGA or the strike. And, even with the speak-for-the-strike incentive, many actors still might feel uncomfortable participating in a ceremony broadcast on a TV network that is part of the media conglomerates writers are striking against.

An HFPA official said he couldn't comment on nonwaiver plans, saying only, "We are exploring all possibilities." A spokesman for Dick Clark Prods., which is producing the Jan. 13 broadcast, declined comment.

The strategy could create an awkward dynamic with Globes broadcaster NBC, whose airwaves could turn into a forum for celebrities to speak against the TV networks and studios.

NBC declined comment on the matter and referred all inquiries to Dick Clark Prods.

The HFPA's tack would be possible because of how the Globes function.

Without a designated host and with few of scripted tributes and monologues, the Globes relies less on writing than other awards shows. Most awards show experts believe a Globes could be staged that didn't feel substantially different from a typical broadcast -- providing that talent shows up.

Of course, all this would become moot if the WGA granted a waiver for writers to work on the show, or become slightly less problematic if it worked out another form of compromise, perhaps in which the WGA would decline a waiver but agree not to picket.

There was no timetable for a waiver ruling as of late Wednesday, and officials at the Globes were increasingly skeptical they would receive one before nominations were announced this morning. That means nominees are in the odd position of expressing gratitude about their nomination without confirming that they could attend the event celebrating that nomination.

A struck Globes would have an effect not only on the awards franchise but also on NBC, which has over the past several years carefully restored an audience that had begun to drift.

After taking a ratings hit in 2005, the show has grown ratings in each of the past two years. The 2007 event, which unlike this year's Sunday telecast had aired on a Monday, averaged a 6.5 rating among adults 18-49 and scored a total of 20 million viewers, the highest in three years.

A talent-light show's effect on viewership could be significant. The 1980 Emmy Awards, which also was affected by a strike, saw an audience drop-off of 30% from the average at the time.

Nellie Andreeva in Los Angeles contributed to this report.