The America’s writers union, WGA has gone on a strike after failing to reach any mutual ground for negotiation with the country’s production houses, collectively known as AMPTP (Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers).
The Writers Guild of America which comprises 11,500 writers belonging to films, television and other entertainment platforms have asserted to be marginalised in their claim for profits, increasing risk arising from no work-related contracts with the huge production houses leaving writers’ at greater risk of one-sided dominance and the bulging hazards of Artificial Intelligence, putting the writers’ jobs in a vulnerable position. The ongoing strike is the first writers’ union strike in 15 years and can come out very likely stronger than its previous one of 2007.
The contract term to be renewed this June failed to reach a mutual ground
The AMPTP and WGA negotiate to form a new contract every three years.WGA released the documents in public domain, containing the proposals made to AMPTP. The writers have been demanding more safeguard for their jobs which included their demand of better residual pay, a type of royalty provided to the writers for reruns and other showings which has been a critical source of income for the middle-class writers that has been upturned by streaming.
The writers guild have been demanding a stable writers room to dissuade the growing ‘abuses’ of the so-called mini-rooms. These mini-rooms can be described as a vulnerable position of small writers where a script is made before a show gets any official greenlight and therefore, the writer is under-remunerated.
The writers’ are claiming that the ‘mini-room’ practice is making writing jobs more precarious and vulnerable, with a decrease in overall pay.
WGA recently claimed in a news release that the AMPTP groups have created a gig-economy inside the WGA, adding further that the producers have “closed doors on their labor force and opened the door for writing as an entirely freelance profession”.
The writers’ union has also demanded some protection from the ever-increasing dominance of Artificial Intelligence, which could be shadowing writers’ jobs significantly.
Arguments from AMPTP union
The AMPTP has been arguing that if writers’ demands are to be followed, the production houses would have to keep the latter on employment and pay them even when there is no work available for them.
The group, which collectively represents Hollywood’s studios, streamers and production companies, also asserted that the inclusion of writers’ healthcare, child care and pension benefits under their employment, exclude them from the category of gig-workers as the writers have been comparing themselves to.
The studio companies have also positioned the critical phase that the “once profitable” production companies have been going through recently. The advertising market is gloomy, and once profitable for decades- cable and broadcast networks have been losing profits.
Netflix, last year, lost subscribers for the first time in a decade. As the fallout has been significant recently, the studio executives are compelled to somehow turn their money-losing streaming services into profitable businesses.
Like Warner Bros. Discovery laid off thousands of their employees, Disney, and many other studios are considering the same action to make way to retain profits.
How vast the WGA strike’s effects would be felt?
As the film studios work in advance, there could be hardly any effect on the movie industry, especially the movies to be released this year would hardly feel any effect. For movies in the pipeline to be affected, the strike would need to stretch for a much longer duration.
The viewers could see a dip in TV by the end of the year but soap operas could run out of episodes by the end of the month.
Late night shows, like “Saturday Night Live” and series like, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” could go dark.
A continuous shutdown of work by the writers’ strike apparently would harm the workers related to the production work, including hairdressers, drivers, dry cleaners, caterers, carpenters, etcetera.
India’s Screenwriters Association has come out in support of WGA
Indian Screenwriters Association has called out its members working in US based films and web series to halt their work and give full support to the WGA’s ongoing strike.
An email signed by SWA General Secretary Zaman Habib has been sent requesting the 57,000 members of its guild to show solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the US. This solidarity, as asserted by Habib, would become a precedent for the writers’ collective welfare which, as per him, is also a pressing issue needing consideration in India too.
The last 2007 strike by the WGA union lasted for 100 days, costing approximately $2.1 billion to the Los Angeles economy. As per Al Jazeera, the economists have predicted that the strike could cost the economy approximately $30 million per day.