Can media conglomerates afford to pay the writers?

As someone who hopes to be in the WGA one day, and as a current SAG member (and former member of the Board of Directors) I am in complete and total solidarity with the Writer’s Guild. It’s quite heartening to me, also,  to see that so many people refuse to be fooled by the lies that the six companies who control all of the media have been trying to spread.

The AMPTP has been successful (and helped by the news media they own) in spreading FUD about the things the writers are asking for. This post at United Hollywood puts some important numbers into perspective:

"But can the corporations really afford to pay you what you’re asking for?"

set aside for the moment the issue of what the congloms say in their
press releases to us (which is basically "There’s no money! Ever! And
if there was, we spent it all on other projects that lost money so it’s
gone! Forever! We’re broke! We’re having to rent our yachts!") and focus on some hard numbers thoughtfully provided by Jonathan Handel on the Huffington Post yesterday.

writes an excellent (I think) and even-handed analysis that takes into
account the effect pattern bargaining will have in calculating real
numbers of what we’re asking for, and what it will cost the companies,
individually, to pay us.

It comes, by his calculation, to $125 million per conglomerate per year — if we got every single thing we’re asking for.

That, by the way, is less than the $140 million Disney spent to fire Michael Ovitz for 15 months of work.

Also, Carson Daly is still an epic douche.

Also, also:

And finally, a meager contribution from the actor half of me:


34 thoughts on “Can media conglomerates afford to pay the writers?”

  1. WGA must win this strike, and I am an example of why. In August, I cancelled my DirectTV subscription and now receive most of my media via iTunes. For sports, I go to a local pub.
    This has allowed me to read a lot more (a good thing) and increase my social interaction, albeit with pub-going football fans. Still, a good thing.
    And I hope you get in one day, Wil. You are currently paying your dues so that in a few more years you can become an overnight success!

  2. I didn’t know you were interested in joining the WGA someday. Cool. Is that one of the reasons why you’re looking for your fiction voice? Would you write for TV?

  3. Wil, I have been posting about this ad trying to keep it at the top of Kristen,s message board for a couple of weeks now.
    It is SO unbelieveable tome that there is any discussion at all needed on this, going back to where the writers were asking for 2/3 of a cent for ever DOLLAR made!
    Seriously – SERIOUSLY? They BALKED at that? I am ABSOLUTELY convinced that the producers are going to try to break the unions becauseit is NOT just about the writers but also the actors coming up in June (and anyone else) After all look at the fact the the CBS news writers have been working for TWO years without a contract and what did it get the writers for their good faith sacrifice?
    The most completely unbelieveable issue here is that is is simple math.
    When the producers make one dollar, the writers make 2/3 cent more (or are we up to four cents now?)
    Please enter every cuss word you know into this space here____________.
    What is more unbelieveable then the simple fact that if the producers DONT make a penny or dollar then neither do the writers!
    What is even MORE seriously (time to get off the Grey’s anatomy reruns) un-be-lieve-able is the SIMPLE FACT that what ever the costs are that will be incurred will NOT be PAID BY the producters (serious arm waving here)!
    OF COURSE it will be passed on to US, the consumers has it ALWAYS has! So THAT is what tells me that there is NO good faith negotiating going on hee and the writers (and public) are just being jerked around – because if the producers can get past the christmas time, people (public)are going to be less responsive to writer’s who dont knwo what they will do for the holdiays suffering as they turn to dealin with January bills and April taxes!
    (Sound of dishes crashing against the wall!)
    Sigh I feel better for about 3 minutes) Back to Kristins Forum, for another rant! Please resume your normal broadcasting programming!

  4. Even in the light of the Huffington Post numbers and studio fears about all the other guilds also asking for raises, they can still EASILY afford to give the writers a more than well deserved raise.
    I don’t know if Wil linked to this in the past, but for everyone else I thought it was a pretty good write up of the situation:

  5. That video? Is fucking awesome. And so is your photo, Wil.
    I always thought Daly was an monumental douche of the first order. Nice to know some things haven’t changed.
    As for Disney, it’s been headed by douches for several decades. As several thousand people were being laid off in 2001 – including me – they rented a fucking aircraft carrier at Pearl Harbor for the premiere of Pearl Harbor. The rental cost $20 million. They couldn’t afford to keep on dedicated employees but they could afford to spend $20 million dollars on a shitty movie that tanked in the box office and in subsequent rentals.
    Yeah, I got Disney issues.
    Wil, you rock most momentously.

  6. Among the bards and minstrels of the Society for Creative Anachronism, we have a little saying, directed at those people foolish enough to mistreat the loudest and most articulate communicators in our little club and think they can get away with it:
    Meddle not in the affairs of bards, for they are subtle and quick to anger, and your name scans to Greensleeves.
    Which is to say: if you’re going to be a bastard to anyone, don’t pick the one group of people who can immortalise your perfidy (and your undersized genitalia) in song and story for eternity.

  7. Hey Wil,
    I see while surfing around that people are raising funds to support the crews, etc. who are out of work because of the strike.
    How about hosting an “adopt a show” poker tournament or something to benefit one of the shows you like? Maybe there’s a way to get all of us involved with supporting the effort?
    Just a thought, as I know you have nothing but free time on your hands. Not.

  8. I fully support the writer’s strike, being a union member myself (albeit in telecom).
    However, I’m posting to alert the Wheaton fan base to the charity auction on eBay right now to win two seats at Wil’s table during the upcoming Child’s Play charity dinner in Seattle on Dec. 11th:
    It’s for a very good cause and, though you might get more out of the other auctions (and the fact that it’s being sponsored by Penny Arcade) if you’re a gamer, I don’t think it’s required to enjoy Wil’s company. Besides, a little competetive bidding is healthy!
    (sorry – I couldn’t figure out how to use tags to make the URL clickable)

  9. I am completely in love with the “Speechless” video. I wish I had more time to get into NYC and bring the striking writers food or coffee or something. I have been showing my support any way I can. I blog, talk about it to people, bought pencils, etc. Can I post your pic on my blog? You are so cute in it :)

  10. i’m sag, my husband’s wga. as rumors swirl around about who what and why – i hold out hope that this will end soon. the worst thing i’ve heard is that the studios have a clause in their contract with their employees that says after 5 weeks of something like a strike (which they classify as a ‘force of nature’) they can start firing people to ‘keep costs down.’ and i’m not talking about just writers – it’s anybody. if it goes more than 5 weeks and studios start to clean house, i’m going to be seriously bummed. that’s a lot of people loosing their jobs. why can’t we all just live in an ideal world like the one i have in my head??

  11. oh yeah, and the whole huge point i was trying to make with above comment is this – i’ve heard the studios don’t really give a sh*t about the writers, they know the demands aren’t exorbinant, they could easily negotiate, but they want to be able to trim their fat, so are holding out beyond the 5 week mark,

  12. As someone who works for one of those companies (no last name or company as I’ll get fired faster than the Flash can do the 440), I’m hoping that the WGA gets even a semblance of their fair share. I see how many of these executives are paid and then see how I’m paid and it’s no surprise that a lot of us WITHIN these companies are getting screwed too! Plus, there’s no union for me!
    If the WGA gets little of what they are asking for, the DGA, SAG and AFTRA will be screwed next. Keep fighting!

  13. As someone who works for one of those companies (no last name or company as I’ll get fired faster than the Flash can do the 440), I’m hoping that the WGA gets even a semblance of their fair share. I see how many of these executives are paid and then see how I’m paid and it’s no surprise that a lot of us WITHIN these companies are getting screwed too! Plus, there’s no union for me!
    If the WGA gets little of what they are asking for, the DGA, SAG and AFTRA will be screwed next. Keep fighting!

  14. Jim at the Legion of Decency is also doing some great writing about the WGA strike. He’s in the television industry, and really has a lot to say.
    You can find him here.

  15. I’ve tried hard to like Carson Daly, but after this idiotic move, I’m done. Do you think he would lose some of his “cool” cred if I let out my yearbook photo of him as captain of our high school golf team?

  16. I understand the writers stance, they want to get paid, who doesn’t. But my brother is directly affected by this and is worried about what happens if this goes on too long. I’m all for people get paid for their work, but it’s not just the writers and the actors that aren’t working. Most of the public is on the side of the writers, but no one is talking about who else is affected by this strike. It’s the grips, and the costumers, and the make-up people and the designers. These are the people who are really hit by this. The writers guild has a strike fund for their writers. IATSE(stage hands union) isn’t going to pay their people just cause a different union is striking. And the timing of this strike is pretty cold-hearted, if you think about it. Not too long ago the big story out of California was about people losing their houses to fires. I’m sure some of those people worked at the studios. And it’s just before Christmas. Instead of worrying about what to get his kids, my brother is worrying about keeping his house. Did this absolutely have to be a strike? And did it have to be now?

  17. There’s something WRONG with Carson. I’m serious. Even before the writer’s strike, he’s bugged me. I can’t really put my finger on it. He’s orange. He looks like he does meth. His hair looks like faux fur (of the muppet variety). And he’s just… not funny. I’m not trying to be mean, I just never got WHY he’s famous or why he’s even still on the air.
    Anyway, I really like that picture of you. So… film noir. Hee!

  18. As the highest-profile labor union action in the country right now, this is a very interesting situation to watch as there is a remarkable ability for unions to gain a lot of good publicity and political strength. It is remarkably cliché to say a phrase like, “in these changing times,” but rapidly evolving technologies are having a major impact in many fields, and I believe employees are going to need protection and representation on a similar scale that the did in the early-mid 20th century. The last large-scale union action was probably the NHL lockout which resulted horribly for the employees (relatively speaking, at least), and recent revelations have alleged that corruption was on a level that used to get people (again, allegedly) buried under stadiums half a century ago. Hopefully the WGA emerges with higher ethical standards.
    Checking my biased, political geek mode for a moment, the WGA has apparently done a good job of identifying a growing source of funding that is being completely withheld from employees on many levels, and I hope they can establish a standard of fair sharing. As many have pointed out, they are also building a strong PR foundation, but this needs to equate for lower ratings against folks like Carson Daly and Ellen Degeneres (to name two) to be effective. Folks, turn your sets off.
    Finally, to Frohling’s point, unfortunately many people are harmed as innocent bystanders in these situations. Their suffering often becomes lost in the genuine conflict as well as the political posturing. Unfortunately there are no good answers to this problem except hoping that communities pull together and help out these folks.

  19. As a former member of a union (The International Chemical Workers Union) I’ve always been a bit skeptical of union actions like this. Unfortunately for the Studios though, I’d have to say the writers have a point. TPTB are just starting to realize how much money can be made on the Web, and apparently wish to keep all that money for themselves. The writers (the people without whom there would be no entertainment, as every movie and TV show starts with the written word) just want their fair share of that money. The writers have done a great job explaining this (people who write for a living being able to get their point across….go figure) to even normally anti-union types like myself. With the Studios losing the PR battle, hopefully they will see reason before it is too late and we all go back to reading.

  20. In other news, Gary Dourdan smokes.
    Seriously though, in response to some of the comments about the timing and the other people whose livelihoods are impacted, a quote from Hillel the Elder:
    “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

  21. Solidarity in numbers! Wil I am glad to see you taking an active step in this matter… not surprised and good on you.
    But for the rest of us lets be honest, we love a lot of the shows being hit by the strike, I am 100% for the writers, they are the life behind everything, incredible and bright people, the more support we can give them the better.
    Well done Wil, your blog continues to be more relevant than ever.
    Take care.
    PS read the book in a day… completely loved it! Without a doubt I know you will hit the WGA by storm in your time.

  22. Ok, I’m not a union guy. I feel that MOST of the unions out there have outive their usefulness. HOWEVER, given that Hollywood is probably one of the last bastions of “coal mine mentality”, I fully support the WGA (from a safe distance North of the Border). While I respect what the actors, directors and crew bring to film and television, I have little respect for the money-gobbiing machine of the Hollywood studios. Hell, if Walt Disney has a blog, I sure as hell haven’t seen it!

  23. If you’re in a city where WGA is picketing, go join a picket line for a day. Even if you’re not a WGA member, tell them you support them and would like to walk the line for a while with them.

  24. Dude, thank you for showing your support and for linking to the Speechless video. I’m a writer and supporter of the WGA, and I just found out that an actor I admired crossed the picket line on the first day of the strike to work on a show. It’s good to know that he’s in the minority.

  25. I wrote on my MySpace blog that in general I’m appreciative of unions b/c even tho I’m not in a union & never have been, I have benefited from the efforts of previous union people. For example, I get paid holidays and paid sick days.
    I’ve known a lot of people in unions so I am aware that some of the folk who run the unions are creeps who don’t care about the membership. But I also know that there is still some good work being done by unions and without them a lot of the “blue collar” people I know would be having an even more difficult time.
    So, I guess that makes me kinda biased and maybe that is part of why I support the WGA. Oh well. I think I can be objective. I think the writers aren’t asking for a lot. I think they do good work (I enjoy quite a few TV shows). I think it is only appropriate to share profit made from a product with all of the people who created that product.
    The video is great. The photo is cool. I’ll be visiting the UH blog and I’ve added them as a friend on MySpace.
    (OK so MySpace is cheesy, but it helps me keep in contact w/ family & friends who don’t live nearby).

  26. Comparing this with the cost of firing Ovitz probably isn’t the wisest idea, given that it was a massive cock-up and they were sued by shareholders over it.

  27. Also, the statement “It comes, by his calculation, to $125 million per conglomerate per year — if we got every single thing we’re asking for.” is extremely misleading.
    The figures on the Huffington Post blog entry are only an estimate of the cost of the extra residuals. The WGA have several other demands of unknown cost.

  28. *PAY* THE WRITERS?! ARE YOU SERIOUS? Do that, and next on the list will be actual acknowledgement of existence!
    (Acknowledgement of skill and importance is not likely till Doomsday).

  29. Its rough though, from what I’ve read it seems Carson Daly (who I’m not really a fan of) was taking into consideration the wellbeing of the other staffers on his show.
    I mean in the recent weeks we’ve now heard of the Tonight Show with Leno staffers getting laid off, with no sure-rehire on the horizon.
    Its great that there are some guys on the higher end of the food chain (Letterman, Conan, etc) who can pay their staffers out of their own production companies or personal stuff, but where do you draw the line of “We want to support you, but situations have now just cost another amount of people not of your union, their jobs.”

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