That the studios and networks have been twisting the truth about the WGA strike to suit their own purposes looks to be standard operating procedure during this strike. That happens on the other side of this labor dispute, too. But no company seems to be doing this more than Disney/ABC. For instance, all comments (not just some) that are even mildly friendly to the WGA are quickly deleted from ABC.com. Here is one striking writer’s experience on Tuesday: “I was on ABC.com today when I saw the Leno story and that there were comments where writers were being bashed and scabs promoted. I defended writers and less than two minutes later the comments were deleted. I tried again and, once again, my comments were deleted. Talk about ABC/Disney censorship.”
The above wouldn’t seem as scary if Disney didn’t own an international news operation, ABC, which is supposed to report accurately and consider both sides of an issue.
But it gets worse.
ABC recently held a “Strike Educational Seminar”. Its purpose was described thusly: “With each day of the WGA strike, more articles and opinions circulate in the media. Now is your chance to hear the real issues in question. Please join Mark Pedowitz and Marc Sandman for a brief discussion of the strike and its challenges.” According to an account of the seminar from a Disney/ABC employee who wishes to remain nameless but whose identity I have confirmed, very little about this presentation was truthful.
[But, first, a personal note: I’m told during the seminar I was called “Tokyo Rose” — a reference to the English-speaking female broadcasters used by Japan to disseminate anti-American propaganda during World War II. This is not merely a garden variety insult. This is an odious comparison with all its implications to use against anyone, much less a journalist.]
Here is the account given me of the ABC strike seminar:
“I went for selfish reasons, hoping to get the answer to the question, Will I lose my job? But I also wanted to hear what these folks had to say, and I was shocked. Sandman, a labor lawyer here, did not refrain from editorializing every chance he got. Rather than discuss what this meant for the studio in a pragmatic sense (2008 pilots, jobs, bonuses, etc.), he totally BASHED the WGA at every turn. These were some of the salient points this little blowhard spread to no less than 150 employees:
“1. The Guild wanted to strike way back in July. The AMPTP was ready to bargain then, but the WGA refused.
“2. They never spend more than 3 hours at the table, and this is the Guild’s fault. Basically, says he, Verrone and Young are novices who’ve never done this before and as such read from a script at the table, then leave. When talks broke off the last time it was because the WGA handed the AMPTP their proposals, then left. According to him, the AMPTP was ready to work things out.
“3. The main issues for the WGA, which the AMPTP considers unacceptable are: 1) sympathy strikes; 2) reality and animation; and 3) the issue of distribution, which says that the WGA is insisting on a provision whereby no network or studio can acquire a product unless the writer(s) of that product are complying with WGA rules. This is what he had the audacity to say. He also said that in terms of streaming and downloads, the AMPTP has a proposal that is absolutely workable.
“4. The DGA is a much more responsible, reasonable union. The DGA had one tiny strike in the last 40 years, while the WGA strikes every chance it gets.
“5. The main reason the WGA is striking is political. The main reason the Guild wants to unionize reality and animation is to create more revenue stream through dues. (!!!!!!) It has nothing to do with caring about writers. And, he said, because Patric Verrone used to write for animation, he has a particular beef with that.
“6. He referred to the strikes as a “traveling circus”.
“The thing that killed me is that people in the audience were buying it. During the Q&A, questions such as “What can we do to to help the studio’s cause?” were asked. I almost lost it, and my cheeks were so red I felt like I suddenly had a 104 fever. The way this information was presented — in addition to being complete bullshit — was absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible. This asshole was given a theater to act out his own personal vendetta against the WGA to an audience that doesn’t know any better. It was awful.
“Feel free to spread this far and wide, to Writeraction and Nikke Finke (who he referred to as “Tokyo Rose”).”