In an environment that often proves to be unpredictable, college students come to regard their favorite television shows with a feeling of familiarity and pleasantness. A television show can be an escape from the hectic nature of college life – a chance for us to get involved in the fictitious lives of others and embroil ourselves in their drama and scandal. We can take a 30-minute laughter break or catch an hour-long drama to find out who the real killers are, and then get back to studying. The lifeblood of these shows is often thought of as the actors, but without the writers, these actors wouldn’t have anything to say. And with the recent writers strike, this is exactly what has happened.
A large portion of writers for many popular television shows belong to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and the guild recently went on strike, for the first time in 74 years. On Nov. 5, more than 3,000 members from the West chapter alone refused to go to work, along with many members of the East chapter, stemming from the rejection of negotiations from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A major reason for the strike is the transition of shows from television to the Internet, and the relatively new downloading and video streaming capabilities. This allows people to watch their favorite shows at their leisure, at their own computers, but the writers receive no recognition or reward for the replaying of their work under the most recent contract. When the contract expired in October, without any action, the WGA members removed themselves from the cycle of television production, and the process ground to a halt for several well-known shows. [strike1]
As college students, we are no strangers to the advancement of the Internet and its seemingly essential nature. We use it to communicate, to check the news, to see the high temperature of the day. Statistics and blogs are available at the click of a button, some classes require Internet access and communication via the ANGEL network, and we’ve got to be able to log on to see the most popular YouTube clip of the day. It comes as no surprise the television industry has fully committed to the World Wide Web bandwagon. I relish the ability to download episodes at my will; this arrangement frees viewers from the constraints of having to sit down and see a show at a certain time. If you’re busy or unavailable, no matter; just download and watch at your leisure. This seems like an ideal system, but it is one that fails to recognize the writers, clearly one of the major contributors to the entire television process.
A major root of the strike is the desire of writers to get paid when their specific shows are downloaded and viewed via the Web. This may be seen as selfish by some, but it is a necessary piece of recognition, due to the crucial role played by the writers in the process of TV. According to an MSNBC.com article, the strike also could stem from residual negativity over the Alliance’s failure to give the WGA writers significant profits from DVD and iTunes sales. Being excluded from additional profit-making opportunities is undoubtedly frustrating, and the writers are taking action in the way they feel is best: displaying how necessary they are to television production. The most recent negotiations have pitted the WGA and the Alliance against each other even more. The writers want increased money from DVD sales, as well as a share of profit generated from the streaming episodes of their shows over the Internet (typically viewed for free by the public), and the Alliance has refused to meet the writers on these demands. Without quality writers, many television shows would not remain afloat, and the current strike conditions can attest to this.
While some may accuse the writers of being money-hungry, additional demands from acting talent often wouldn’t receive a second glance. The salaries of popular actors do not compare to the salaries of the writers, and yet without the writers, the show often does not go on. The actors still remain recognizable and desirable in the industry, but without fresh episodes, their reputations can become stale. The implications of the strike for many popular shows may not become evident until February, when the supply of episodes written ahead of time becomes depleted, and viewers and critics start buzzing about fall’s new pilot episodes and series. It is at this time when the value of the writers will become most apparent, and those involved with television production will truly appreciate how integral a lively, witty and smart script is to the success of a show. [strike2]
If new scripts are not being written, networks will eventually be scrambling to fill their prime-time voids with repeats, specials or an influx of reality programming. For those students with faithful followings of certain programs, these substitutes certainly will not suffice. Many of us depend on our fix of our favorite shows, and we sometimes satisfy these cravings by viewing episodes on the Internet. But if the writers are not compensated appropriately for the reproduction of their work, there won’t be new episodes for TV or the Internet. If the demands of WGA members are not met soon, even the Internet, the savior for so many other aspects of daily life, cannot revitalize the television industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *