Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Writer’s Strike continues; industry suffers

Twelve weeks into the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike, many television programs have gone dark.
“I was watching ‘Chuck’ and there was no resolution! Suddenly it just ended, and my sister and I just looked at the screen and said ‘What!?'” said senior Deanna Lucini.

The strike began in November and primarily focuses on the writer’s perceived rights to Internet residuals. The WGA is facing off against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and asking for   2.5 percent of profits from new-media sales and distribution. Writers are currently not paid for streaming material: including full episodes archived online: which some companies have argued is “promotional material,” despite embedded advertising.

“Soon, when computers and your T.V. are connected, that’s how we’re all going to watch,” said writer Howard Gould at a WGA meeting just prior to the strike. “Those residuals are going to go from what they are towards zero if we don’t make a stand now.”

The AMPTP argues that new media is too new and an unpredictable medium.
“The average working WGA writer makes more than the combined salaries of a teacher, a firefighter, a police officer, and an emergency medical technician,” says the AMPTP’s official Web site.

“But strikes are never about money. They’re always about respect,” civil rights worker Andrew Young told Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report.”

Indeed, the losses from the strike have already far exceeded the disputed money. The WGA estimates that the strike has now cost writers over $160 million, though their proposals would have resulted in only $151 million in three years.

“The U.S. economy is positioned for a hard fall, and they’ve lost almost $2 billion in revenue in Los Angeles,” said Rhetoric and Film Studies Professor Amy Corey. “For a country on the edge of recession, I’m surprised there isn’t more effort to end the strike.”

The strike has put many production staffers out of work as well. “Legions of hairdressers and stylists must be in mourning right now,” said Lucini, referring to the cancellation of the Golden Globes (which was retooled into a less glamorous press conference).

Some show runners, like Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, chose to pay their non-writing staff while production was halted. Recently, though, late night television has returned. Some shows: David Letterman’s “Late Show” and Craig Ferguson’s “Late Late Show”: have arranged separate deals with the WGA allowing their writers to return, since Letterman’s independent production company, Worldwide Pants, produces both shows. Other hosts: Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Carson Daly and Stephen Colbert: have returned to their respective shows without writers, many of them forced to improvise as members of the WGA themselves.
Moreover, many of the starlets that frequent late night television have refused to cross the picket line and do interviews, leading to some creative bookings: O’Brien spent a good 10 minutes with P. Diddy’s butler.

Some are impressed with the creative approaches of writer-less hosts.

“I have a renewed interest in late night shows, don’t normally watch them,” said Lucini. “Leno actually seemed better than he has in awhile because he actually had to think about his material. Previously it seemed like he was going through the motions.”

Others are less than satisfied with the quality of returning shows. “I don’t watch T.V. often, but it’s getting lame,” said Genevieve Yazzie of Bon Appetít. “I just hope people are noticing the difference in things.”

“There’s a certain sense of bitterness that pervades the program,” Corey said of watching a writer-less Jon Stewart, who has temporarily changed the name of his program from “The Daily Show” to “A Daily Show.”

A Pepperdine University poll showed that 84 percent of the public were aware of the strike in November. Public opinion largely favors the writers, with nearly two-thirds siding with the WGA.
“I like that they’re making Hollywood sweat,” said Yazzie.

“The studios have done little to present a case for their holding out for so long, especially since striking a deal with the Director’s Guild so quickly,” said senior Rob Rye in an e-mail.

However, 75 percent of respondents in the same poll had little to no concern over the strike.
“Moralistically, I can understand where the writers are coming from,” said Lucini. “But from a selfish standpoint, I just want my T.V. shows to come back on.”

“With all the late night shows off the air, Americans have been forced to read books and occasionally even   speak to one another,” Conan O’Brien joked upon returning to his NBC show.

O’Brien’s humor rings true for senior Suzanne Zitzer.

“I feel sorry for the writers,” she said. “But I hope it means people will watch less television.”

“People are still watching T.V.,” said Corey. “There are small shifts to other activities, but there is so much programming out there. I’m watching reruns of ‘CSI’ because I was watching ‘Ugly Betty’ in the fall, and they’re new to me.”

The WGA and AMPTP are currently discussing the possibility about resuming talks after they broke down last month, and many hope that the Oscars: planned for February and supposedly hosted by Jon Stewart: will proceed.

Regardless, Corey said, “It will take a long time for original programming to recover.”

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