TV, FIlm Writers Go on Strike
WGA says AMPTA has “closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession”
As anticipated, TV and film writers went on strike at 12:01 a.m. PST on May 2 after the Writers Guild of America failed to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new contract.
The strike, the first since 2007, will affect approximately 11,000 writers, mostly based in Hollywood and New York and will result in the shutdown of numerous scripted programs with its most immediate impact on late night talk shows which have now shut down.
Seth Meyers, host of NBC’s "Late Night" voiced his support for the work stoppage.
“No one is entitled to a job in show business,” he said on his show Monday night. “But for those people who have a job, they are entitled to fair compensation. They are entitled to make a living. I think it’s a very reasonable demand that’s being set out by the guild. And I support those demands.”
A number of issues have prompted the strike, namely the changing work and media environment that have taken place over the past 15 years. As high-end TV shows on subscription streaming services produce fewer episodes and with longer stretches between seasons, writers are experiencing less job security. In addition, there are also concerns over the changing roles of writing staffs, with more emphasis on show runners, as well as the increasing threat many feel from advances in AI.
The typical salary of a new writer is approximately between $4,546-$7,412 for those above entry level per week, according to FilmLA.
In announcing the work stoppage, WGA accused the AMPTP of attempting to lower the status of writers.
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the WGA said in a statement Monday night. “From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a `day rate' in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership," the WGA added.
In its response, AMPTP said it had “presented a comprehensive package proposal to the Guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals. The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the
magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon. The primary sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing,’ and ‘duration of employment’ -- Guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.”
In a note to its members, the WGA said, “Here is what all writers know: the companies have broken this business. They have taken so much from the very people, the writers, who have made them wealthy. But what they cannot take from us is each other, our solidarity, our mutual commitment to save ourselves and this profession that we love. We had hoped to do this through reasonable conversation. Now we will do it through struggle. For the sake of our present and our future, we have been given no other choice.”
The last strike, during the 2007-2008 season, lasted 100 days and is estimated to have resulted in losses of $2.5 billion to 3 billion from cancelled programming, loss of ad revenue and decreased DVD sales.
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Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.