WGA Strike: Bafta CEO is watching Hollywood Writers’ Strike ‘closely’ ahead of live UK TV awards ceremony

The Hollywood Writers’ Strike could have a knock-on effect on British programming as thousands of writers have stopped working

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CEO of Bafta, Jane Millichip, who took over from Amanda Berry last year is closely watching the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike across the pond ahead of the UK Bafta TV awards ceremony that will be broadcast live tonight (14 May). 

The WGA strike has entered its 12th day as the dispute between the writers and studios over fair pay and protections against artificial intelligence appears no closer to being resolved.

Millichip attended the red carpet event for the Bafta TV Awards 2023 at the Royal Festival Hall today and spoke to the PA news agency about the strike. She said: “As an arts charity we don’t have a position, we hope it is resolved soon and fairly and it has not affected this year’s awards because we’re celebrating the wonderful shows from 2022.

“But whether it does have a knock-on effect for development and production in the future, we’re not yet sure.

“We’re watching it closely, we have 11,000 members across the world largely in the UK and US and a lot of those are creatives and practitioners, so in that respect it is something we are observing.”

Jane Millichip BAFTA CEOJane Millichip BAFTA CEO
Jane Millichip BAFTA CEO

What is the WGA Strike about?

The writers’ strike began on 2 May after 11,500 WGA members stopped working when their contract expired. It is the first strike of its kind in 15 years - the last 2007 strike affected films including Quantum of Solace and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, drama shows such as Heroes, and a raft of late night chat shows.

The union is seeking higher minimum pay, more writers per show and less exclusivity on single projects, among other demands – all conditions it says have been diminished during the content boom of the streaming era.

What have British stars said about the WGA strike?

Comedian, author and screenwriter Ben Elton, who is celebrated for his work on 1980s sitcoms Blackadder and The Young Ones told PA on the red carpet: “I think it is really important that artists do go out collectively to protect their rights in the face of seismic changes in the industry.

“I think it’s incredible that the American union is able to exercise such rights, I wish we had the same power over here. Obviously things are changing and there is going to have to be negotiations, but basically on principle I extremely support the idea of any group of workers trying to protect their hard-won rights as technology makes it easier to exploit them.”

The Responder star Martin Freeman voiced support for the WGA strikeThe Responder star Martin Freeman voiced support for the WGA strike
The Responder star Martin Freeman voiced support for the WGA strike

Martin Freeman, who has starred in The Hobbit film trilogy, and is nominated this year for his role in BBC drama The Responder, said: “My work isn’t being affected by that but we are keeping an eye on it for what it will mean. I’m up for fairer pay and it’s a well unionised job in America so when they go on strike it actually means something, which is not the case for everyone. Fair play.”

The Responder writer, Tony Schumacher, whose series has five nods, added: “Full support for the writers strikes – it’s such an important thing and it’s something that needs resolving and I just hope we can get some solutions pretty quickly.”

When is the Bafta TV Awards ceremony on TV?

The live ceremony will be broadcast on BBC One on Sunday 14 May from 7pm-9pm and will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer. It will be hosted by comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan, and will also feature dozens of big stars to present each of the 25 awards.