After being rebuffed by the Screen Actors Guild's hardliners at every turn in their efforts to seek a new approach in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, union moderates, who hold a majority on the union's board, used a procedure called "written assent" to oust its chief negotiator and executive director, Doug Allen. The move had been predicted, but it was widely assumed that Allen would launch a legal battle to block it. He did not. Much of the opposition to Allen was led by the union's local officers in Chicago and New York, and the action came after they were prevented from holding a vote on Allen's ouster at a meeting of the board over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. "We despise that we had to do this to put the guild back on the course to sanity, but hopefully this move will reopen negotiation," Todd Hissong, president the SAG's Chicago local, told the Wall Street Journal. But SAG President Alan Rosenberg, a strong supporter of Allen's negotiating strategy, told Daily Variety, "This is the darkest day within my memory. It kills democracy at SAG." Allen, who will continue to receive his $500,000 annual salary until the end of the year, issued a perfunctory statement saying that he was "disappointed" with the decision, but that he was "proud of my record." In an account of the meeting at which Allen was fired, entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel said that Allen was called into a meeting room after SAG attorneys examined the written assent and asked the signers if there was anything they wanted to say to him. "There was an awkward silence," Handel wrote on his blog, "then one of the actors answered, 'Thank you for your service.' Allen replied, 'You're welcome,' then talked out, slamming the door."


In addition to firing Doug Allen as executive director of the Screen Actors Guild and chief negotiator, union moderates also hired former SAG general counsel David White to take his place as executive on an interim basis. The moderates cited his "industry experience, professional skills, and familiarity with the Guild's operations." However, they did not make White their chief negotiator. They instead created a separate post and filled it with John T. McGuire. The dissidents' written assent also called for the dissolution of the entire negotiating committee, replacing it with a 10-member task force.


The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to delay the transition from analog to digital television from February 17 to June 12. Congressional Democrats had been pushing for the delay, citing reports that millions of Americans are not prepared for the switchover and that vouchers for government-subsidized converter boxes were no longer being distributed because funds to support the program had run out. The delay had been backed by President Obama. Meanwhile, Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System, said Monday that the PBS stands to lose $22 million if the delay proposal flies with Congress. She noted that many stations have leases on new tower sites for the digital broadcasts and the delay will force them to pay rent on both the old and new ones for the next six months.


The BBC was under fire today (Tuesday) for its refusal to air an appeal for humanitarian relief aid in Gaza. Some 15,500 complaints about the policy were registered by BBC switchboard operators. On Monday, protesters mounted a demonstration outside Broadcasting House in London, and some participated in a noisy protest in the lobby until police removed them. Some of the demonstrators burned their TV licenses in front of the police (and TV news cameras). Some 112 Members of Parliament introduced a motion criticizing the BBC for turning down the spot by the Disasters Emergency Committee's Gaza Crisis Appeal. The BBC said it was doing so on grounds that it would run "the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality." The spot, however, aired on commercial outlets ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. But News Corp-controlled Sky Broadcasting also refused to air it, saying that it was "incompatible with our role in providing balanced and objective reporting." Labor MP Richard Burden told BBC News, "Viewers and listeners can see the difference between a humanitarian appeal and politics -- even if the BBC and Sky management cannot." The Disasters Emergency Committee is asking for funds for food, medicine and blankets for noncombatants in Gaza who were left homeless by the recent Israeli siege. On Monday, the Archbishop of York issued a statement saying that in this instance the BBC ought to place humanity over impartiality and show the spot. Today's London Times reported that the BBC Trust, the broadcaster's governing body will review the decision not to air the appeal.