Say what you will about this strike, the validity of the demands, the inflexible stance of the management, but right now both sides are childishly stamping their feet because they didn’t get a pudding for desert. My difficulty is not over the issue, money, but over how each side has been trying weasel their way into it. It’s like both sides brought a seven layer dip of stupid to the party.
I’m no expert when it comes to the contractual dealings, negotiating profit sharing, settlements or Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) rules. I’m looking into this problem with the eyes of the audience they produce for. And I know it’s a lot to ask that common sense be used in such a situation but there are plenty of lawyers involved so things could get a little sketchy.
The writers are complaining that they aren’t getting their fair share of profits from the shows they write, particularly from DVD sales and Internet broadcasts. Since producers haven’t sufficiently appeased them, they’ve gone on strike, which they have been announcing for the better part of a year. Producers, who have been enjoying a renaissance of television popularity, want to maintain a stranglehold on the profits even though DVD sales and Internet distribution have come into their own, so they didn’t cut the writers into Internet broadcasting or up the writers' take of DVD sales.
I agree that the writers should get paid a fair share, and perhaps even be given a bonus if the show is a hit, but demanding that this money come from DVD sales and Internet broadcasts doesn’t jive with me. As an analog consider the following. An amusement park hires an engineering firm to build them a new roller coaster. They agree on a contract, sign off, and the coaster is built. Now, the ride becomes a success and millions of people are going to the amusement park for this particular coaster and buying pictures of the terrifying final dive as souvenirs. Does the amusement park owe the engineering firm a slice of admissions or picture sales generated because of their roller coaster? No, but maybe they do.
To my knowledge, the writers already get a slice of the DVD sales. Considering that this market has recently helped some failing shows gain an audience and even resurrect shows from the grave, they seem to have a point if it comes to an ethical point of view, but contractually, they’ve sold their work and they’ve been paid the amount agreed upon. As brutal as that sounds, they have a union to negotiate terms of contracts and extras to keep their paying members from being exploited.
The WGA isn’t some penny-ante union, they own Hollywood! Neither of these media have just popped up, both have been viable means of distribution since the turn of the millennium. They’ve had seven years to come to terms with this problem; what’s the deal?
Though Internet broadcasting may be uncharted waters, isn’t the value of the show derived from how much sponsors or advertisers pay? What’s the obstacle to applying such a system to Internet broadcasting?
But this is hardly a union-busting article; the producers are just as poorly organized. They are the gate keepers when it comes to the money. They’re in the game to make as much as they can but we’re talking about amounts of money where a transaction of plus or minus a couple million dollars doesn’t shift profit margins by 1%. Why not take that 1% of the money and satiate your employees so they don’t halt production? Of course the reason they don’t is that they only have to fulfill their contracts, and while it’s not wrong it’s far from equitable.
It’s also unbelievable that the producers are acting like it’s not their fault that the union went on strike. Who else is to blame? The writers for feeling underpaid as studios pull in billions of dollars of profit annually? If the producers are vehemently against showing flexibility to a new profit structure, why not go outside the union and hire other people? It’s not like the studios are required to employ union writers.
It seems to me that both parties need a kick in the pants, even though they both have legitimate claims. Fence sitting is a precarious position, but that’s where I am about this ordeal. I say ordeal, but really it’s just an inconvenience.
There are scheduled meetings after Thanksgiving weekend, but since there is no real rush to get back to work, neither side is going to budge. Viewer complaints to the networks will probably get this ball rolling, but since there is a backlog of scripts and plenty of shows being filmed, it may take a while.Powered by Sidelines