American Pie 23.01.03

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has fewer than 100 members, is seeking more money for its sponsorship of the Golden Globe Awards. Each year the event draws more than 20 million viewers. At the moment, NBC, which broadcasts the awards, pays $3m (£1.9m) for the privilege – of which usually a third goes to the association. The rest goes to an agent and the cost of staging the show. The agent, Dick Clark Productions, threatened to sue just before this year’s event if the group didn’t fulfil the 10-year contract it signed a year ago. The demand is surprising because the organisation is probably one of the richest news groups in the world. Each member is allowed two all-expenses-paid trips a year to any two film festivals, gets free magazine subscriptions and gets to go on studio press junkets. And many of them moonlight in other jobs. There is reportedly only one British member. Few others bother to apply. As Guardian correspondent Duncan Campbell told The Washington Post recently: “It’s like one of those Groucho Marx clubs. If they were willing to have me, I wouldn’t want to join.”

Fake or misleading movie reviews are also in the news again. The Federal Trade Commission is drawing up new guidelines to crack down on movie adverts that run laudatory blurbs that are taken out of context and in some cases even fabricated – a practice that infuriates reputable critics. There have even been cases of film studios creating fictitious newspapers and reviewers. Some studios have even admitted to hiring actors or using paid employees to appear in so-called “man-in-the street” commercials.

The libel suit that Liza Minelli and her husband have filed because of a story in the New York Post about the difficulties they were alleged to have been having over a new TV show, recalls a similar suit in the Fifties brought by her mother, Judy Garland. That was over a story in the Herald Tribune that said much the same, quoting an unnamed CBS executive. In that case the Trib’s showbiz columnist Marie Torre refused to testify and went to jail – the first case on record in the US of a journalist being imprisoned for protecting a source.

A new study reports that during the day, more working adults in the US turn to the internet for their news than read papers or listen to the radio. The figures: 35 per cent use the internet for news, 25 per cent use newspapers, 21 per cent magazines, 17 per cent radio, 6 per cent turn to ordinary TV and 3 per cent to cable TV.

If war is declared on Iraq, journalists will be allowed to accompany troops into battle, the Pentagon has promised. Hundreds of names have been collected and combat training has begun. Sig Christenson, a military writer for the San Antonio Express-News, who heads a recently organised group called Military Reporters and Editors, hopes it is true: “It certainly appears on the surface that the Pentagon is serious.” And it seems so – the Pentagon has announced it will offer smallpox and anthrax shots to reporters assigned to the battle zone.

Power of the press? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reports that Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, once told TV star Oprah Winfrey that she would have to lose 20lb before she could appear on the cover of Vogue. Winfrey obliged and shed the offending extra pounds.

Jeffrey Blyth

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