“On Strike; Shut it Down; Hollywood’s a Union town.”
That was one of the many chants of the Hollywood writers on strike – and network news was union-friendly November 5 as reporters took the writers’ side.
“The writers are up against some wealthy media conglomerates,” said ABC’s Brian Rooney on “World News with Charles Gibson.” ABC didn’t offer any view from the other side.
In fact, the management – in this case, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – had less than 10 seconds total to respond in the CBS and NBC stories. Not only was it less than 10 seconds, but the two mentions of AMPTP were only statements. Journalists didn’t include any interviews with the management.
It should not be all too surprising that the networks managed to avoid the producers’ opinion, considering the fact that the striking writers work for their own networks. In fact, CBS News staffers are expected to vote November 15 on whether they will join the rest of the Writers Guild on strike.
Ignoring producers, reporters seemed to be more interested in the celebrities supporting the strike.
Tina Fey was shown picketing on ABC, NBC and CBS. Fey is not only a writer, but also the creator, executive producer and star of NBC’s “30 Rock.” Fey will continue acting and producing, of course, just not writing.
Jay Leno made appearances on all three networks as well. NBC boasted “all 21 of the 'Tonight Show' writers are digging in.” Yet none of the writers themselves was interviewed, only Leno speaking in favor of the writers.
The two less recognizable names who appeared backing the strike were Marc Cherry, the creator of “Desperate Housewives,” and Damon Lindelof, writer and co-creator of “Lost.”
Strikes are usually staged by auto workers and airline employees. Not to mention, the annual income of the striker does not usually average around $200,000, as is the case with Hollywood writers.
A visit to the AMPTP Web site would demonstrate the noteworthy fact that in 2006, “workers in the media business earned on average just under $70,000” while the average Los Angeles citizen earned only $46,000.
The writers are arguing with producers over the still-emerging market for movies and TV via the internet and DVDs. As marketing and release costs increase, producers argue that there is far less room for a blanket percentage to be built into every writer’s contract, as writer salaries and residuals vary greatly from situation to situation.
“Nightly News” did mention the effect the potential length of this strike could have on the Los Angeles economy. “If this strike lasts as long as the 1988 Writer’s Guild strike, it would probably cost the local economy $1 billion plus in lost output,” said Jack Kyser of the L.A. County Economic Development Corp.
As writers continue to strike for more money, businesses ranging from catering to equipment rental will continue to be affected.
“We’re probably working on 25 percent of our normal business,” said Scott Floman, owner of Big Screen Cuisine.