- Written by Paul Glenn
- Entertainment reporter
Film and television giant NBCUniversal has denied trying to stop striking actors and writers from protesting outside its studios by cutting down trees that provide shade during sweltering temperatures.
Treegate, as the feud has been dubbed, is a sign of growing tensions between Hollywood studios and artists.
Los Angeles City Comptroller Kenneth Mejia said “no tree trimming permits were issued” for the site.
NBCUniversal officials said the work was simply an “annual landscaping”.
The cast joined the amazing weekend screenwriters in Hollywood’s biggest strike in more than six decades.
Members of the Writers Guild of America and the actors’ union Sag-Aftra were demonstrating outside the NBCUniversal building, as well as other offices and studios.
Sag-Aftra said in Statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “Suspiciously timed construction that forced picketers onto the streets without proper safety bars, and now trimming trees to remove shade during a record heat wave, has forced Sag-Aftra to determine that it cannot safely send its members to picket at NBCUniversal.”
NBC Universal said the “safety tree-cutting of ficus trees” was not intended to provide trouble for the protesters.
“This was not our intention,” the company said. “In partnership with licensed arborists, we prune these trees annually at this time of year to ensure the canopies are lit before high winds season.
“We support the WGA and Sag’s right to protest, and are working to provide some shade coverage. We continue to communicate publicly with the site’s labor leaders to work together during this time.”
After investigating the case, Mr. Mejia said, “In cooperation with the Bureau of Street Services, we found that no tree trimming permits had been issued in the last three years for this location outside of Universal Studios.”
NBCUniversal now provided gazebos on the street to provide shade.
Hollywood has entered unwritten territory after negotiations broke down between major studios, screenwriters and actors – over pay in the age of broadcasting and the use of artificial intelligence.