Friday, December 28, 2007

The Fairness Doctrine

United Hollywood brings forth Wall Street's analysis of the WGA's demands:

... Wall Street firm Bear Stearns issued a report stating that even if the Writers Guild got every single provision it has been asking for in a new contract, the impact on the conglomerates' bottom line would be "negligible." It's encouraging to see Wall Street saying what we've known all along: that the WGA's proposals are fair, reasonable and affordable. (They don't even keep up with inflation!) ...

Back in 2000, the Animation Guild spent nine months trying to achieve residuals for animation writers. Through nine months, the studios kept saying "no." And TAG kept revising its proposals and coming back to the table with another residual idea. The studios went right on saying "no."

In the privacy of the caucus room, TAG negotiators complained how unfair it all was. How the Animation Guild's proposals were beyond reasonable. And I agreed. But I also kept pointing out that the crux of the matter wasn't "fair" or "unfair." It was -- as it always is in negotiations -- what side has the strength and leverage to achieve its ends. The end for the animation studios in 2000 was, "no residuals."

That's the nub of the situation with the WGA-AMPTP negotiations now -- who's got the leverage?

Here's my semi-informed conjecture: The conglomerates are betting that WGA solidarity cracks along about the fifth or sixth month of picketing, as members' economic situations grow worse and pressure to "agree on something!" becomes more intense. The WGA is betting that the studios aren't willing to throw away a television season and movies needed for their distribution pipelines over $120 million in extra costs and a 1% downward tick in projected earnings.

Of course, the wild card in all this is the D.G.A. If and when the Directors Guild reaches a new contract with the AMPTP, the dynamics will change, despite what the actors and writers are saying now. We've got a ways to go yet.

Addendum: David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Co. has reached an agreement with the WGA:

David Letterman has secured a deal with the striking Writers Guild of America that will allow him to resume his late-night show on CBS next Wednesday with his team of writers on board, executives of several late-night shows said today.

This, I think, goes back to the issue of leverage. Letterman isn't hostile to the WGA (if anything, he's hostile to the corporate suits). World Wide Pants Company has been pursuing a deal for some time now. So the WGA had leverage to get a new deal.

Good to read that WWP and the WGA have a new contract and the writers are returning to work.


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