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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Hollywood Ending

It became official last Tuesday; the writers’ strike that had halted production on the sets of TV shows for all major networks had come to an end. Writers Guild of America members voted overwhelmingly in favor of going back to work, with 92.5 percent voting to end the 100-day strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

But what exactly was it all about? Well, money of course. Writers felt they deserved more of it, while television and film studios disagreed. The major obstacle in negotiations between writers and executives was the amount of compensation writers were receiving for “new media” as well as DVD sales. “The bottom line for writers is this,” says Barry Brodsky, an instructor who has taught screenwriting at UMass Boston “writers will now reap a more fair and equitable amount of pay for material streamed on the internet.”

In the past writers had no agreements in place regarding material distributed to customers through online distribution channels; the new agreement will change that. “It’s fairly new ground, and for years writers would see their work appearing on the internet and receive no compensation for it.”

Writers “will also get a better deal on residuals for DVD sales [and] rentals,” adds Brodsky. Compensation for DVD sales was one of the major hurdles that had to be overcome in the negotiations. For years writers had been receiving a set percentage of 0.3% of gross income from the sale of the first million DVDs. Writers had been asking for an increase in these residuals to 0.6% per DVD.

This increase would provide writers with the security they felt they needed in order to survive during times when they were not writing. In recent years, the home video market has eclipsed sales at the box office considerably, and writers felt that they deserved a bigger piece of those profits.

“Screenwriters remain disrespected in the movie production process,” says Brodsky. “One of the great compensations in the past for having your work butchered and baked in the movie-making process was that at least you were getting paid fairly.”

During the strike production was shut down on a number of television programs, most noticeably network sitcoms, dramas and late night shows. While the late night shows eventually returned to the air without writers, many scripted shows suffered and several pilots never got off the ground as a result. In place of the scripted shows, an incredible amount of reality shows were given the go ahead to join the already crowded reality TV market.

The results of the strike have been felt throughout the entertainment industry. Hundreds of production personnel and assistants were laid off, causing them to lose out on more than three months of pay. It has also been estimated that the losses to the Los Angeles economy could reach into the billions of dollars, with writers and production personnel losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in income.

However, the effects of the strike have also been felt beyond the entertainment industry. Viewers have seen many of their favorite shows put on hold while they waited for the strike to be resolved. In the meantime, we have been subjected to reruns, an increase in movies and American Gladiators.

The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), and Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), are labor unions that represent writers of television, film and radio and have a combined membership of over 12,000. The AMPTP is a trade association that represents the interests of more than 350 film and television production companies and studios. And, at least for the time being, they have made peace.