Wednesday 3 May 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 3/5/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Karen Krizanovich

Writing on the wall

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced this week that, after six weeks of negotiations, no agreement had been reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. And so, just like that, Hollywood’s TV and film writers went on strike on Tuesday, turning off the taps for new scripted entertainment.

The stages of late-night shows such as Saturday Night Live (pictured) have been vacated with immediate effect. Network TV in the US and the mighty streaming services upon which we have come to rely will gradually run out of material. Even if the strike stops, productions will be affected by decreased preparation time. The strike could lead to programmes being cancelled too.

Writers’ strikes aren’t new in Hollywood. The last time the WGA went on a 100-day hiatus, between 2007 and 2008, the cost to California’s economy alone was $2bn (€1.8bn) and it affected a wide range of peripheral businesses. To outsiders, the strike might seem to be motivated by little more than a request for more money. But such a mobilisation was inevitable: the film industry is at a potential flashpoint. To the WGA’s 11,500 members, the craft of professional screenwriting is at stake. The rise of streaming services has brought seismic changes to the industry and resulted in many writers struggling to earn a living wage. Staff numbers have been cut and, in many cases, so have payments for material reuse.

With the use of artificial intelligence looming large and a lack of funding for “mini-rooms” – spaces where writers can throw around ideas about unconfirmed projects – the question of whether screenwriting can remain a viable career needs to be addressed. You might not notice much difference when you settle in front of the screen tonight but a plot twist in Hollywood’s streaming-fuelled expansion is coming. Meanwhile, expect to see some very well-written picket signs at the protests today.

Karen Krizanovich is a film journalist and broadcaster. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / French Polynesia

Separate ways

This week, France has hinted at the possibility of an independence referendum in French Polynesia after pro-independence parties won the majority of seats in its parliament on Sunday. France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin (pictured), issued a statement following the results, which confirmed that the French government “takes note” of the assembly’s new political make-up. While French Polynesia’s leading pro-independence party, Tāvini Huiraʻatira, has previously served in coalition governments, this is the first time that it has won an outright majority. That puts Moetai Brotherson, the MP who the party will present as president of the future government on 10 May, in a strong position to negotiate a referendum. French Polynesia already has some degree of autonomy for healthcare, primary education and environmental policies. However, France retains control over the islands on issues such as higher education and defence. A potential referendum would be a blow to Emmanuel Macron, who, in the face of China’s growing influence, wants to maintain France’s power in the Indo-Pacific.

Transport / Switzerland

On the move

Switzerland’s Association of Public Transport (APT) has set the goal of making the nation’s public transport network climate neutral by 2040. One of its objectives is to replace all diesel buses with electric ones (pictured) over the next 17 years. The APT also wants to buy more trains that can harvest brake energy so that it can be fed back into the power grid.

Switzerland is not the only European country putting such benchmarks in place. Austria’s government has set the same timeline for all sectors of its economy, not just public transport. Similarly, Germany aims to reach carbon neutrality across all sectors by 2045, while the UK aims to follow suit by 2050. While the Swiss authorities have not yet announced the full cost of all upgrades required, the initiative is setting the country on the right track to reaching its environmental goal.

Image: Alamy

Sport / Singapore & USA

Packing a punch

When One Championship, Asia’s biggest martial arts promoter, hosts its first event in the US on Friday, it won’t just be fans of Muay Thai and kickboxing who will tune in. In little more than a decade, the Singaporean company has become a sporting powerhouse in Asia and has won the backing of several major sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms. Investors, advertisers and industry executives will be eager to see how a sports brand from Asia performs away from home.

Its US debut in Colorado will see the brand grapple for Western fans and fighters with its dominant US rival, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. An Asian export journeying westwards also goes against the conventional flow of traffic: the NBA, Major League Baseball and Premier League are among the US and European sports leagues to have found commercial success by heading in the opposite direction. Thai entrepreneur Chatri Sityodtong founded One Championship in 2011 in an attempt to regain Asian stewardship and bring back humility to martial arts tournaments. As its global expansion gets under way, viewers can expect fierce fighting inside the ring – and strong competition for market share outside of it too.


Agriculture / Peru

Rich pickings

Within a decade, Peru has gone from having almost no blueberry farms to being its biggest exporter. In 2022, the country sold more than $1.36bn (€1.24bn) worth of the berry; according to recently published figures, the country recorded an almost 80 per cent year-on-year increase in exports during the first two months of this year. It is now the world’s third-largest producer, behind only China and the US.

Inspired by the success of Chilean farming since 2006, some Peruvian producers began experimenting with blueberry varieties. After much trial and error, the Biloxi variety was deemed the most suitable crop as it is particularly heat-resistant. The rapid growth in this segment of Peruvian agriculture mirrors that of Mexico and its raspberries: the North American nation is now the world’s second-largest exporter of raspberries, hot on the heels of Russia. The success of this strategic approach to production suggests that the time is ripe to establish alternative food chains as Western countries increasingly seek to avoid Russian imports.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

Planning ahead

We explore the virtues of second cities as master-plan test-beds, speak to a Ukrainian mayor hoping to build back better after the war and look into how virtual reality can improve the way our buildings sound.

Monocle Films / London

How to make Indonesian corn fritters

Learn how to make crispy corn fritters with London-based chef Rahel Stephanie, who spreads the joy of Indonesian cuisine as she talks us through the steps and cooks up a bountiful feast with all of the recipes detailed in Konfekt.


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