The First Writers Strike in 15 Years Hits the TV and Film Industry
By Abb Jones
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has gone on strike for the first time in 15 years, fighting with the alliance of movie studios, television networks and streaming giants unwilling to meet their demands for better pay.
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union work force, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing.” -the Writers Guild of America
The WGA argues that studios for years have underpaid writers, hiring them as freelancers and refusing them benefits, as industry executives make tens of millions of dollars per year. The WGA is demanding a recalculation of how residuals are paid, citing statistics that show median writer-producer pay has declined by 4%, or 23% when adjusted for inflation. The WGA also claims that showrunners of streaming series receive less than half of the pay compared to showrunners at the television networks.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers claims the economic downturn, a drop in traditional television viewing and a more competitive streaming market is forcing them to rein in costs. The entertainment giants oppose a union proposal that would require them to staff television shows with a certain number of writers for a specific period of time whether needed or not.
The most immediate impact will be at the late-night talk shows, which will go dark this week. Saturday Night Live will likely cancel this weekend’s episode as well, with producers of scripted drama and comedy series forced to cut seasons short or even delay filming altogether.
The WTA last went on strike in November 2007, with that work stoppage lasting 100 days. If this strike continues, expect to see a proliferation of unscripted, reality-based television programs such as Big Brother.
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