Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
If you, unlike most Swatties, actually penetrate the Swat bubble and participate in popular culture, you’d know that the most important thing going on right now in the the entertainment industry is the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This article is for the rest of us. For Swatties whose brains have been fried by hegemony and post modernism, we present a primer on:
The 2007 Writers Guild of America Strike
The WGA is a trade union that represents writers working in film, television, and radio in the United States.
The AMPTP is a trade union that represents film and television producers. Over 12,000 writers are affected by the strike, as well as thousands of other employees on sets where production has been halted.
Every three years, the WGA negotiates a new contract with the AMPTP. This year, the biggest issues are over residuals from DVD sales and New Media. The last time residuals from home videos were negotiated was in 1985, which is also the last time the WGA went on strike. At the time, the market for home entertainment was still new and untested, so writers agreed to take about .3% of sales from video tapes. But despite the fact that DVDs have now become vastly popular, the same formula for residuals apply today. The WGA proposes a residual of about 8%, which AMTMP has rejected.
As of now, no arrangement regarding distribution via new media, such as the Internet, exist. Producers propose that writers receive no residuals from streaming content, and that Internet sales follow the same model as DVD sales. However, the writers refuse to make concessions the way they did in 1985, and are adamant that whatever deal they make does not resemble the DVD formula.
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Negotiations broke down on October 31st, and writers across the nation shut down production. On November 5th, 3,000 writers picketed or refused to cross the picket lines in 14 studios in Los Angeles. Many more marched in New York City. Despite the fact that most actors contracts’ include a clause which prevents them from leaving the set in support of another union’s strike, many actors such as Zach Braff, America Ferrara, and Sandra Oh have done so. Others, such as Jon Stewart and Alec Baldwin, have expressed their support of the writers. Senators and 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton have also issued statements in support of the WGA. The strike is expected to go on for many months, with a settlement before 2008 highly unlikely.
How This Affects the TV You Watch:
Unscripted (or shall we say “unscripted”) reality shows have not been affected, as their writers work for a separate union. Game shows are also similarly unaffected. So American Idol and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? are safe. Soaps are safe until February 2008.
As for scripted shows– most have at least 7-8 completed episodes. Late night comedies, like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, began running re-runs immediately. Shows that began mid-season, like Dirt and 24, have fewer episodes completed and so fewer will air. NBC is considering airing the British version of The Office in place of the American version. Pushing Daisies, the show this reporter finds meaning and life in, only has 9 episodes. Ugly Betty has completed 13, Dirty Sexy Money and Grey’s Anatomy has completed 11, and House has completed 12. A full list can be found here.
In conclusion, things are not looking up for Swatties with a bad TV habit. Until then, I suggest you rediscover vapid pleasure reading, wildly implausible fan fiction, and take up useless hobbies such as needlepoint.