26th February 2024 9:50 am
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Writers go on strike in protest of unfair pay in streaming era

  • Negotiations for better pay between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have failed and a strike has been called.
  • The WGA has called on its members to withhold work and picket.
  • The last WGA strike lasted 100 days before the streaming wars the AMPTP members are currently embroiled in.

Every month streaming platforms kick out a new series or original movie and for a long time there have been questions about how sustainable that would be. As it turns out, not very sustainable at all when it comes to writers.

The Writers Guild of America’s board of directors have called on union members to withhold labour and picket for better pay.

The union says that it spent the last six weeks negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

“Over the course of the negotiation, we explained how the companies’ business practices have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions. Our chief negotiator, as well as writers on the committee, made clear to the studios’ labor representatives that we are determined to achieve a new contract with fair pay that reflects the value of our contribution to company success and includes protections to ensure that writing survives as a sustainable profession. We advocated on behalf of members across all sectors: features, episodic television, and comedy-variety and other non-prime-time programs, by giving them facts, concrete examples, and reasonable solutions,” wrote the union.

In response the AMPTP responded with an offer that included what it said were “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals” per a report from Deadline.

However, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) said the AMPTP refused to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic TV nor the establishment of a “day rate” in the comedy variety sector among other provisions the union wanted. The union went so far as to accuse the AMPTP of opening the door to making writing an entirely freelance profession.

“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 WGA said.

Downing tools could be a very big problem for the AMPTP in the streaming era where viewers are hungry for the next new piece of content. While these companies could turn to non-union writers, history has shown that doesn’t always work.

When the WGA last went on strike from 5th November 2007 to 10th January 2008 a number of shows, particularly late-night talk shows, were adversely affected. A number of TV shows were postponed or outright cancelled because of the strike. Hit shows including Lost, Supernatural, The Office, Heroes, Breaking Bad, Grey’s Anatomy and many many more were among those that had seasons shortened. More telling was the fact that the quality of these shows at the time was noticeably worse.

This 100-day strike also saw a rise in reality TV and other unscripted content. Both Big Brother and The Amazing Race were greenlit by CBS at the start of the strike in 2007.

However, that was when Netflix was still shipping DVDs and streaming was in its infancy with Justin.tv – the predecessor to Twitch.tv – being launched just a year before the strike.

Today each of the AMPTP members has its own streaming service, each clawing for a piece of a market in what we’ve dubbed the streaming wars. Today streaming is fragmented with multiple subscriptions to multiple platforms required to watch any given mix of content.

There is a potential content drought on the way though unless WGA and AMPTP can reach a resolution.

In the meantime, might we recommend some YouTube creators worth watching as well? You can find some channels that you may not find on the Recommended tab here.

[Image – Harald Müller on Unsplash]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Beats include cybersecurity, business, infrastructure, telecommunications, PC gaming and internet culture.

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