Sunday’s Golf Channel broadcasts will be “significantly impacted” by the fallout of a labor dispute between the network and its live tournament technicians union, according to several sources contacted by No Laying Up. The impact is already being seen on the Web.com Tour coverage and it remains to be seen how the Sony Open telecast will be affected.
Camera operators and technical crew belonging to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union have been in negotiations with Golf Channel over compensation, as well as concerns with audio and utility issues, according to sources within Golf Channel and other people familiar with the situation. After threatening a work stoppage earlier this week, the strike became official Sunday morning, leaving the 11 a.m. Web.com Tour broadcast in the Bahamas with a skeleton crew of non-union workers. After opening the disjointed telecast in the GC studio with Damon Hack and Paige Mackenzie talking over seemingly nonspecific highlights, the broadcast picked up coverage from on-site, obviously with a lack of cameras; coverage was seemingly limited to distant locked down shots and tower shots from the 13th and 14th holes.
The IATSE has not responded to an email request for comment. Golf Channel issued the following statement:
Golf Channel has been working on negotiating an agreement for nine months with a union that represents our live tournament technicians. Those efforts have not yet yielded a resolution, and we looking forward to reaching a mutually agreeable contract. However, some technicians have chosen to walk off the job today. We have contingency plans in place, and will continue to deliver coverage. Thank you to our viewers for the patience.
The PGA Tour issued the following message to players:
Here was the message communicated to the field at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic pic.twitter.com/ySEJDfx3ZE
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) January 14, 2018
The main question now is how this will affect coverage of the Sony Open. Similar to the Web Tour telecast, it appears the plan is to assemble a crew of non-union production workers to carry out the telecast. Without the union camera operators, the telecast would likely be limited to a small number of roving cameras. It would be a far cry from the large number of both roving and tower cameras that are customary in a broadcast.
The AP’s Doug Ferguson also reported that tee times have been moved up as a result of the strike.
Earlier start today at the Sony is because of a strike. No, not a missile. Camera/audio techs that do GC events walked out today over contract negotiations.
— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) January 14, 2018
UPDATE: Golf Channel came on the air by addressing the labor dispute, offering the following statement and confirming a scaled-back broadcast team:
We are focusing on the final groups and final holes tonight because some technicians walked out on the job earlier today. Similar events happened at other tournaments in the Bahamas and Orlando. Our teams at the Web.com Tour and the Diamond Resorts Invitational did a great job. Our team here is ready to do our best.
A source familiar with the dispute offered the document below, which outlines the union’s complaints and goals.
UPDATE NO. 2: While it’s impressive and admirable that Golf Channel was able to get any kind of broadcast on the air with a skeleton crew, there has been a noticeable in difference in Sunday’s coverage. The audio commentary is being pulled from the analysts in the Orlando studio rather than the normal on-site crew. Fewer cameras have led to long, lingering shots instead of the typical quick cuts moving all around the course. That, combined with large chunks of the broadcast that were presented without natural sound made things feel extra flat. There was also a noticeable lack of graphics and tower shots seem to be limited to the final three holes.
Operating one of those cameras: On-course analyst Jerry Foltz.
Haha, Jerry Foltz is running one of the tower cameras. What a time to be alive. pic.twitter.com/OsKhGI2TcA
— D.J. Piehowski (@DJPie) January 15, 2018