Amazon's Downton sponsorship sparks protest

Amazon's Downton sponsorship sparks protest

Campaign group Amazon Anonymous organised a social media protest following the online retailer’s sponsorship of the latest series of the ITV flagship drama “Downton Abbey”.

Amazon has sponsored the fifth series of "Downton Abbey" in the name of its Kindle device, it transpired as the series opened last night (Sunday 21st September). Amazon Kindle is flagged as the series sponsor in brief clips as each section of the popular drama commences, showing actors behind the scenes in a period drama similar to "Downton Abbey" so absorbed in stories on their Kindle e-readers that they miss their cues.  

Amazon Anonymous, which earlier this year posted a listing for a dummy book in its campaign for a Living Wage for Amazon workers, wrote to supporters about the sponsorship deal. In one email message the group said: “A programme about social inequality is being sponsored by a company that creates inequality.By paying their c.e.o. millions whilst treating their warehouse workers terribly, by avoiding paying their fare share of tax, and by driving independent businesses out of business Amazon are taking us back to the 1920s.”

It asked supporters to go online during last night’s episode of “Downton Abbey” and leave comments on Twitter or Facebook. “We can’t let Amazon have an easy ride with this one,” the message said. “We can’t let them surf on the success of a popular TV show. We need to show Amazon that one episode of Downton Abbey doesn’t change their poor working practises. And we need to spread the word that Amazon aren’t the company they claim to be in their ads.”

Another message, sent out during the programme, added: “Amazon is hoping that a bit of swish advertising will make us all forget about their big problems. But while we’re at home on a Sunday night watching TV, thousands of Amazon workers are stacking warehouse shelves on poverty pay, and their c.e.o. ‘Worlds [sic] Worst Boss’ Jeff Bezos is counting his bonus.”

This weekend a number of writers also revealed they would not be attending Amazon’s annual writers’ gathering in the US, Campfire, which is hosted by founder and c.e.o. Jeff Bezos.
Usually shrouded in secrecy, with writers asked by Amazon not to talk about the event, the fifth gathering took place at the weekend, the New York Times reported.

Writer James Patterson, who signed a letter from Authors United asking Amazon to settle a dispute with his publisher Hachette Book Group in the US, told the newspaper: “My guess is a lot of writers turned it down this year. I wasn’t invited again, and I wouldn’t have gone if I had been. I would feel very odd being there.”

Patterson did tell the New York Times that the event has been “terrific” in the past.

Indie author Hugh Howey said he “asked not to be invited back this year, as I want to be able to speak my mind and not have any hint of a quid pro quo”. Howey told the newspaper in an email that Campfire was nonpartisan, and said: “They invite all kinds of people with all kinds of stances. You’re the first person I’ve heard suggest that people turned this down, so I’m inferring from you that the Hachette standoff has created tension?”

Campfire takes place at the Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa in Sante Fe, California, and allegedly includes “impressive dinners, accompanied by live music”, with activities for writers including horseback riding, skeet shooting and “lazing by the pool”.

The New York Times added: “In the mornings, there are formal talks on highbrow topics.”