Here is yet another big test of whether a Hollywood guild will push back against the insurmountable power of Big Media. The website Daytime Confidential.com has learned from multiple sources (and asked me to get the word out) that ABC Daytime has approached the Writers Guild of America requesting a special waiver — or else. It would allow the broadcast network to cut up to 20 scripted episodes a year from each of their three soap operas — All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital — and replace them with classic episodes. This waiver also would allow ABC Daytime to disregard guarantees already promised writers in their current contracts. “ABC is basically saying, if you don’t give us the waiver, we’ll have no choice but to start firing writers on each show,” a source told the website.
The website says ABC gave the WGA a deadline of August to make a decision — or else the network will play hardball and start firing at least one writer on each show. It just so happens, that month, ABC starts airing its first round of “classic episodes” in order to promote the return of fan favorite Vanessa Marcil (Brenda Barrett) to General Hospital.
ABC Daytime is claiming it needs to shave production costs to “help to keep the soaps on the air,” a source told DaytimeConfidential. “People are really split. Some feel like, ‘Do what you need to do to keep all three soaps on the air’, while others are ticked off. With SOAPnet going off in a year and a half, the soaps’ employees are already losing those residuals, and they’ve already endured massive cuts. The minimum pay for a primetime script is about 10 times more than the pay for a daytime script. When you factor in taxes, agents, managers, and the cost of living in LA, most daytime writers are making a middle class living, but they certainly aren’t getting rich.”
The timing for ABC’s move comes just as the current Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) expires May 1, 2011. “A lot of people are wondering if ABC is doing this now in order to strengthen their position before it’s time to start negotiating a new contract with the Guild in about six months,” an insider told the website.