You won’t read this in the trades because Variety and The Hollywood Reporter (and the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times) wouldn’t dare accuse Hollywood moguls of wrongdoing. But WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East counterpart Michael Winship are going public that the writers guild is having trouble enforcing the new AMPTP contract. This shows exactly what shits are the studio and network CEOs and the labor lawyers leading them around by the nose. They should be ashamed of themselves — but that would require them to have consciences.
“Although the new MBA increases access to information, difficulties already are appearing. Blaming ‘technology problems’, the conglomerates are failing to make the correct payments due on streaming and downloads. Even more appalling, AMPTP reps now claim that our agreement doubling the DVD formula on EST downloads only applies to movies and TV shows released after the end of the strike,” Verrone and Winship told the WGA membership this week. “Needless to say, we are challenging the companies aggressively and will take all actions necessary to protect and collect what we won as a result of the strike. Contract enforcement remains a top priority and writers, working with the staffs of the Guilds, must be the main force in instigating, investigating, and pursuing violations.”
On the plus side, the WGA heads noted that:
“Following the strike, most of us expected that the gains we made in new media coverage would take time to justify the sacrifices, but they already are bearing fruit. Webisodes based on such existing TV series as The Office, Heroes, and Californication are now being written under the new MBA contract and writers working under the PBS contract now are receiving payment for Internet reuse. Original content being created under Guild contracts includes some of the most successful projects, like Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and the most anticipated, including Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.
“As business models quickly evolve, it’s imperative that writers, who are fast becoming important entrepreneurs in new media, involve the Writers Guilds in making their deals. We can guide and work with you to negotiate appropriate compensation, separated rights, credits, reuse, and other provisions in addition to the benefits already guaranteed by the MBA.
Meanwhile, the WGA is working to sign up more shows within genres over which its coverage is incomplete:
New signatories include Chocolate News, Lewis Black’s The Root of All Evil, and The Bob Saget Roast at Comedy Central, as well as the first broadcast game show contract with Mark Burnett for Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?. We also have a game show deal with FremantleMedia for Match Game, but that company remains an organizing target following our much-publicized American Idol Truth Tour. The Tour, in alliance with the Teamsters, has brought to light the unacceptable working conditions suffered by writers and other workers in reality TV.”
The only Labor Day news that the trades did pick up was the WGA’s support of SAG in its negotiations with the AMPTP — but then they just told a small part of it. Here is Verrone’s and Winship’s full statement:
“The union that deserves our profound gratitude and attention right now is the one that supported us so strongly during our struggle, the Screen Actors Guild. During its ongoing negotiations, SAG regularly has been criticized for trying to improve on the deal that we made in February. Such criticism is unfounded. We didn’t win everything in new media that we eventually will. SAG is well within its rights to improve on our gains.
“For example, we grudgingly agreed to certain budget levels for original new media productions, but SAG is right to demand coverage for all new media projects, regardless of budget, and we very much hope they achieve it. The suggestion that companies need budget breaks in order to experiment in a new medium rings false. Experimentation is too often a euphemism for ‘nonunion’. We agreed in our deal to make initial compensation completely negotiable precisely to give producers all the flexibility they need in these new markets. They don’t need to develop another non-union business model.
“Naturally, we hope the SAG negotiations successfully end soon. But we reject the notion that SAG must follow any predetermined bargaining pattern. We worked hard to inform our members about the benefits and limits of pattern bargaining. Unions need to support each other when pattern bargaining is used as an excuse not to address a union’s legitimate concerns. We stand behind SAG and its efforts to represent its members’ interests, and we urge the AMPTP to return to the bargaining table.”
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