by Barry Garron
Hollywood Reporter Barry Garron writes:
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.
Up until last week, the TCA had a fallback position in case the strike didn't end and the broadcast networks would not participate. There were plans for a shorter tour, based on a commitment from PBS and cable networks. 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 particpate.
Walker had tried to persuade the broadcast networks that a tour during the strike would be at least as valuable as a normal tour. TV critics nationwide would get an opportunity to explore the various positions of each side, as well as report on network plans for substitute programs.
NBC, however, had said it would not participate and the other networks were noncommittal.
In his message to critics, 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.