TV shutdowns expected as Hollywood writers strike for first time in 15 years


More than 10,000 unionised film and television writers are set to go on strike, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced on Monday evening after negotiations between the union and the studios failed, marking the first such work stoppage by writers in 15 years.
WGA members vote overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if labor negotiations break down.

Writers Guild of America members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if labor negotiations break down.

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Key Facts

Both the East and West branches of the WGA have voted unanimously for a strike that will begin at 12.01 a.m. PT on Tuesday, the union said in a statement adding that writers are facing an “existential crisis.”

The strike follows six weeks of talks between the union and the trade group Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major Hollywood studios and streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony.

The WGA has asked its 11,500 members to halt writing any scripts, and they are set to begin picketing on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the major concerns for the WGA has been the growing pivot towards streaming services and its impact on the traditional residual payments structure—which included payments from home video sales and syndication on TV.

In a statement, the AMPTP said its offer included “generous increases in compensation for writers, as well as improvements in streaming residuals,” but an agreement could not be reached before the expiry of the current contract between the studios and the guild.

Image: Getty
News Peg

According to the AMPTP, two particular proposals made by the WGA remain the major sticking points stalling the negotiations. The first is the proposal for a minimum of six writers for a TV show, which could rise to 12 based on the total number of episodes. The second is the proposal for guaranteed minimum employment of 10 consecutive weeks for a season of a show, which can rise up to 52 weeks depending on the episode count. The studios rejected both proposals without a counteroffer.

Crucial Quote

In its statement announcing the strike, the WGA said: “The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing…they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession.”

Surprising Fact

An emerging concern flagged by the WGA in its proposal is the use of artificial intelligence for scriptwriting. The guild’s proposal calls for the regulation of AI use, including a ban on AI writing or rewriting “literary material,” use of AI to generate source material for writers and preventing the training of AI tools on material written by the guild’s writers. The studios have rejected this proposal and have instead offered annual meetings “to discuss advancements in technology.”

Section Title

Writers Guild Calls First Strike in 15 Years (Hollywood Reporter)

WGA Spells Out Vast Differences That Led to Strike (Variety)

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