Marjorie David is a seasoned television writer and executive producer (Wildfire), and co-executive producer (Life, Dark Angel, Chicago Hope). She volunteered to serve as a Contract Captain for the WGA’s Contract 2007 Campaign. She is a member of the working board of the League Of Hollywood Women Writers.
The most important result of the writers’ strike for me is the realization that even though incremental gains in such things as benefits can be won through a labor action, labor action doesn’t occur in a political vacuum. Of course, everybody knows that. But experiencing it makes all the difference. I learned this: nothing will change until there is genuine reinstatement of effective anti-trust law. There’s only so much a small, special-interest union can do against massive corporate power. But the government is ours, and the strike made me see that we can fight to take it back.
I think we can all agree that media consolidation is bad because it limits and controls access to information, but it’s also fair to argue that new media outlets are opening up access in ways we’ve not seen before and in ways we can’t yet predict. We can make sure, or try to make sure, we get paid for our work in new media, but most important, we have to guarantee that new media does not fall under the control of the same six companies that control pretty much all of our newspapers, television and radio. The strategy the big companies are employing to insure their hegemony became clear to me during the strike. If you got all of your information through old media, the writers were a bunch of greedy brats who already had more than “everyone else.” The fact that we made any gains at all is directly attributable to the fact that the companies did not own access to the internet. Both sides of this labor dispute were out and available to anybody who wanted to know what was at stake, including members who might otherwise have become discouraged and demoralized.
Influential blogs — among whom the tireless support of DHD stands out even a year later — not only made the WGA message clear, but also opened up a forum for talking about it. Everybody didn’t agree about the strike, obviously, but on blogs like DHD, there was a free and open public forum for discussing it. United Hollywood published new information and consolidated the proliferation on videos members and their allies began to generate and post on the internet by the score. Strike TV began and, a year later, it is still going strong. But the creative implications of this will be discussed elsewhere, I’m sure. Politically, internet access is the key to getting and staying in touch with a constituency. By the time the national election came around, politically energized writers were ready to go.
A year down the road, anybody who didn’t see that all content would ultimately become digital content back in ’08 has got to see it now. Net neutrality and, if possible, the weakening of corporate consolidation have to be addressed on a national level.
The end of the strike brought the rise of organizations such as the League of Hollywood Women Writers, which came out of a meeting early in the strike among a few women who ran shows and expanded to others afterwards, partly because the strike made it abundantly clear that the interests of the show business big shots who invite writers to fund raisers and bundle our contributions into big, attention-getting packages, don’t have our interests at heart. Working writers have to organize and speak up for themselves politically by raising politician awareness of our issues and helping candidates get into office who support those issues, which the LHWW did with fund-raising and issue-writing for candidates throughout the last campaign.
The strike also led to the nascent WGA PAC, which will create a presence in Washington where our presence will count. The new administration, the already heartening improvements to the FCC and sympathy on the part of the President and in Congress all lead me to feel some optimism about the future now – optimism that I didn’t feel a year ago when the strike ended.