November 8, 2007
The Hollywood Writers' Strike: Why They Fight
This video is a straightforward explanation of what's at stake: for the writers to make a decent living through a fair share of back end profits big media makes from products they help create. Unitedhollywood has timely updates about the strike.
As Miss Laura at Daily Kos points out, they've actually rescinded their demand to up their 4-cent residual on every DVD sold to 8 cents-- an increase they more than rightly deserve-- if they get internet residuals.
Yet the studios refuse to budge, even hitting back by threatening to suspend long-term projects that would cost average production company workers their jobs. Their rationale? That there's still no money in online media. This is echoed by the likes of former Disney head Michael Eisner who calls the strike "stupid" because the Writers' Guild is lobbying for a bigger cut of profits that "aren't there".
Well, it's definitely stupid of the studios and Eisner to expect the writers and the rest of us to buy that drivel. If the profits are really nothing, then why are they fighting tooth and nail not to share that nothing?
The truth is, they know online media is the new frontier. The profit potential is huge, and this is why the writers want to negotiate their residuals from it now, because if they give in to the studios, they might never see a single dime of internet residuals in the future. As bad as their stingy 4-cent residual for every DVD sale is -- which the studios are now reneging on increasing, in violation of their 1985 agreement with the writers -- zero internet residuals are even worse.
Why should you and I care about this? Because a win for the writers is a win for labor (i.e. all of us), and labor needs all the help it can get. Contrary to what some may think, not everyone in Hollywood is wealthy and glamorous, and the writers are members of its mostly working class denizens that we often don't recognize or see.
As Lacey Rose in an excellent Forbes article pointed out, this is a crucial fight: through media consolidation, the studios are now bigger and more powerful than they were during the last strike twenty years ago, while the writers are increasingly losing clout as the internet usurps territory that tradional media used to have all to themselves.
In short, it is a fight for survival, and supporting the writers through this fight and suffering through reruns in the interim is the least we can do.
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