How ironic that this news hits Hollywood one day before the Screen Actors Guild has its long-awaited formal meeting with the Hollywood CEOs’ negotiating reps, those AMPTP asswipes, and on the same day that the AMPTP and IATSE announced they’re reached a tentative contract agreement. “In light of the fact that writers are not being paid for New Media reuse, it’s unconscionable that the AMPTP proclaims on its website, ‘By working under an expired contract, SAG members are not receiving the New Media residuals that other Guild members are already collecting,’ ” said WGAW President Patric Verrone today. Yeah, this is corrupt studio accounting brought to a whole new level of fraudulence.
If ever there were a time for showbiz guilds to stand together in solidarity, it’s now. I’m talking SAG and the DGA as well as the low-cost toadies AFTRA and IATSE. And I’m talking about a boycott of the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. (The Guilds have their own awards nights anyway, right? I bet SAG could charge up the wazoo for the broadcast rights to its glitterfest now…) Bad enough that SAG has to keep pushing for its $60 million in overdue force majeure payments from the majors, since it’s one of the few bargaining chips which the guild has to play with the AMPTP short of a strike authorization. The Hollywood CEOs want those debts forgiven and the whole force majeure payment issue removed from future SAG contracts. Then there’s the issue of the moguls not making timely payments on residuals of traditional entertainment product to writers, directors and actors.
Just how many ways is the Big Media cartel screwing the guilds right now anyway? Hard not to interpret this as a direct assault on the Hollywood unions in the macro sense. This shows exactly what shits are the studio and network CEOs and the labor lawyers leading them around by the nose no matter if the economy is good or bad — because this nonpayment started waaaaaaaaaay before the stock market crashed. They should be ashamed of themselves. But that would require them to have consciences.
Today, the Writers Guild of America, West, confirmed what they’d warned about a few weeks ago: that the media conglomerates of the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers – the AMPTP – have failed to comply with the contract negotiated to end the Guild’s 100-day strike by not paying residuals for writers’ work that is reused on New Media. These payments were the key issue of the WGA strike so the WGAW said today it’s starting “an aggressive contract enforcement program – including legal action – to ensure that the AMPTP companies make good on their obligations”. To that end, the WGAW filed for arbitration today against the AMPTP over residuals for programs sold as electronic downloads (aka ESTs, or Electronic Sell-Through) involving the sale of video content via the Internet which allows the purchaser to keep a copy of a program permanently on a computer hard drive or other device. In addition to taking legal action, the WGAW is undertaking a campaign of extensive member outreach and education on contract enforcement issues so that writers can help monitor the progress of enforcing the 2008 Minimum Basic Agreement.
“Our agreement with the companies on material released to EST covers feature films produced after July 1, 1971, and television programs produced after 1977,” said John Bowman, chair of the 2007 WGA Negotiating Committee. “The companies have reneged on this agreement and are taking the position that only programs produced after February 13, 2008 are covered by the new provision. This may be their deal with the DGA, but that was never our agreement. Every proposal we made during negotiations made clear our position that library product was covered, and the AMPTP never objected to that position. The Guild will not allow this to stand.”
The Guild said today it’s also preparing to file for arbitration against the AMPTP companies for failing to pay residuals due for the streaming of television shows on the Internet. “Our tracking has shown that episodes are staying on websites longer than the 17-day initial window called for in the contract. This triggers the payment of a residual, but so far we’ve seen nothing,” said David Young, the WGAW’s executive director who also helped negotiate the new contract. “Given the reports by the conglomerates of the growth of the number of shows being streamed and increases in new media revenues, this is an unacceptable situation.”
Said WGAW President Patric Verrone: “The companies know what is being streamed, and they regularly announce how successful they are in generating online advertising revenue, so there’s no reason for them not to honor the agreement they made with us.”