FOR THE WEEK OF NOV. 12, 2007
TV and film writers strike over pay for video streaming and downloads
Entertainment and Lifestyle pages are full of alternatives to watching reruns. Invite students to find and list things they can do - after homework! – if favorite shows are interrupted.
Screenwriters feel the impact of new technology – something that affects all industries and services, including education. Challenge the class to spot an article or photo that involves digital technology or automation.
Editorial pages, TV columns, readers' letters, blogs and online discussion forums are among places to see comments about the current strike. Suggest that students check out what people are saying.
Scriptwriters in Hollywood, New York and around the country are characters in their own drama as a labor strike against entertainment producers enters its second week. More than 12,000 members of a union called the Writers Guild of America have stopped writing for movies, soap opera, prime-time shows and late-night TV. That forced The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and other live shows off the air immediately. In coming weeks, more programs will go into reruns until the writers accept a new contract.
The biggest issue is whether and how writers will be paid for shows seen on computer screens, iPods and cell phones. Those who create the words actors want a share of proceeds when their work appears on the Internet, where studios and producers earn money from ads and download fees. Writers currently earn nothing from those markets, even though they've long received extra payments – called residuals – when content they helped create is rerun on TV or shown in other countries.
The walkout that began Nov. 5 has an impact beyond what we see on TV. "It's very important that we settle that as quickly as possible," says Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, "because it has a tremendous economic impact on our state." A halt in production of TV shows affects thousands of workers, especially around Los Angeles, along with businesses that supply food, costumes, vehicles, security and other services. It also affects actors, though they generally support the writers because the outcome of this strike is sure to affect negotiations for a new Screen Actors Guild contract next spring.
Writer says: "These companies clearly smell that the Internet is where their future profits are coming from. If you look at NBC breaking off with iTunes and trying to start their own thing and raise the price, it's because they know this is where the money's going to be." – Tina Fey, creator of 30 Rock.
Network boss says: "We are fully prepared to offer alternative-programming options" during the strike. -- Leslie Moonves, chief executive of CBS
TV columnist says: "The writers shouldn't miss out on that cash [from downloads] and they should be compensated for other extras the networks are getting for nothing, such as those streaming mini-episodes created for network Web sites." – Melanie McFarland, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Front Page Talking Points Archive