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WGA Members “Ready To Strike” After Round Of Pre-Contract Talks Meetings!

February 25, 2017 (17:03) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller


The threat of a writers strike continued to mount today as the WGA held the last of 11 membership informational meetings in advance of next month’s negotiations for a new film and TV contract.

“We’re always ready for a strike,” a TV writer laughed as he left the meeting at the Beverly Hilton. “Television is in another Golden Age and the companies are reaping record profits, but writers aren’t sharing in that. Our incomes are going down, so it’s going to be a tough negotiation.”

“Writers deserve more and the companies can afford to pay it,” said another TV writer who attended the meeting, “and we may just have to fight for it.” As for a strike, he said: “I pray that there will not be one, but I fear that there will be one.”

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“The general feeling is that everybody would prefer to work,” said another writer, “but given the companies’ profits and our declining wages, it’s now or never. This meeting was not a strike vote, but we have certain needs that have to be met. Nobody wants to strike, but we are willing to if we have to.”“We are all standing strong for the union,” said another writer. Another added: “We have a unified guild.”

Solidarity and the credible threat of a strike are certainly helpful going into any contract negotiation, and many of those interviewed today said they hope the companies recognize that they are united behind the union’s “legitimate” and “reasonable” demands, and will make a fair deal to avoid a strike.

Guild records show that “overall median earnings increased 17.4% between 2008 and 2014,” but guild leaders say that “the average income of members in both features and series TV have actually decreased over the (last) decade.”

There’s no doubt that Hollywood’s film writers have seen their wages steadily erode over the past two decades, largely due to a decline in the number of films being released. According to the WGA West’s annual reports, screenwriters earned less in 2015 ($362.1 million) than they did in 1996 ($364.4 million) – and that’s in real dollars. Adjusted for inflation, they collectively earned about a third less in 2015 than they did in 1996.

The guild’s records also show that in 2015, TV writers earned $803 million under the WGA West’s basic contract, for an average annual income of $194,478, which was $48,936 more than they made in 2006.

But those numbers are only based on guild minimums, and don’t include the moneys they make as writers employed in additional capacities, such as producers and executive producers. And that’s where TV writer-producers are taking it on the chin. Two recent guild surveys of its working members found a 23% overall decline in weekly compensation for series TV writer-producers from the 2013-14 season to the 2015-15 season – a downward trend that guild officials maintain has been going on for a decade as the TV industry continues to go through a major restructuring.

The leading cause for the downturn is the shortening of many shows’ seasons, with fewer episodes meaning fewer dollars for writer-producers. In years past, writers might be paid for 22 episodes strung out over 44 weeks, but it’s now not uncommon for seasons to last for only 10 or 12 episodes.

“Everybody agrees that television is changing and that the way writers are paid needs to change,” said a writer leaving today’s meeting. “Nobody wants a strike, and the union will do its darndest to get a fair deal.”

The guild’s ailing – and some say failing – health plan will be another key bargaining point when negotiations with management’s AMPTP begin on March 13.

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Writers Guild Sets Start Date for Contract Negotiations With Producers!

February 23, 2017 (17:12) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller


The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have set March 13 as the date for the start of negotiations on a successor deal to the master contract.

The talks will be held at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks. The current three-year contract expires on May 1.

The WGA is placing a premium on increasing coverage and compensation for writers in the digital arena, according to the union’s recent message to its 12,000 members. WGA leaders have also been stressing since last May that the guild deserves major increases in its deal.

“The $49 billion annual operating profit accumulated by the six major media companies with whom we will be negotiating is double what their profit numbers were only a decade ago,” a recent missive from the negotiating committee said. “Contrast that with the economic picture facing the members of our Guilds, whose average incomes in both features and series TV have actually decreased over that same decade. You’ve told Guild leadership in meetings and surveys that new models of development, production, and distribution — while making the companies richer — have not worked to your individual or collective advantage.”

The letter also said that members should contrast the companies’ prosperity with the state of guild’s health plan, which, due to rapid inflation in health care costs nationwide, has run deficits for all but one of the past four years, forcing a dip into long-untouched reserves.

“Getting our fair share will require resolve and solidarity and the willingness to fight if necessary,” the committee said. “But in a time of unprecedented profits for our industry, we believe it is our due.”

A decade ago, the WGA initiated a 100-day strike that had ripple effects across the industry, but also gave the creative guilds important gains in residuals, royalties, and jurisdiction for what was then the first flowering of made-for-digital entertainment. Subsequent negotiations in 2011 and 2014 were less acrimonious with the guild placing a premium on improvements in cable TV compensation.

This time around, as the volume of original series on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. and the popularity of streaming of TV content has expanded to eye-popping levels, there are rumblings in some writers’ rooms that it’s time for the guild to push for significant gains on the digital front. It remains to be seen, however, if scribes are prepared to back the guild if strike talk becomes a reality, especially at a time when work in TV and digital is so abundant.

The Directors Guild of America achieved gains in streaming residuals in the new contract that the helmers reached in December, which signals that the AMPTP is ready to give something on the digital front, because the DGA typically sets the basic template that the AMPTP offers to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. The DGA’s three-year deal was ratified by its members two weeks ago and takes effect on July 1.

The WGA’s pattern of demands include increased minimum compensation in all areas and increased residuals for “under-compensated reuse markets,” likely a reference to SVOD and ad-supported VOD platforms.

SAG-AFTRA has not yet set a date for its negotiations. The performer union’s current deal expires on June 30.

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Ah, negotiations begin in March!  So writers get ready for those incoming  “Winds…!”
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Judge Pauses Enforcement of IMDb Actor Age Censorship Law!

February 22, 2017 (22:17) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

February 22, 2017 | 04:14PM PT

A federal court judge on Wednesday granted IMDb a preliminary injunction against California’s legislation requiring subscription entertainment database sites to remove an actor’s age, if requested by the actor.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued the ruling three months after IMDb filed a lawsuit attempting to invalidate the AB 1687 legislation. “It’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment,” he said.

The injunction stays the enforcement of the new law. IMDb — a subsidiary of Amazon — had contended in its suit that the law, which applies only to subscription sites such as IMDb Pro, was unconstitutional.

“The statute prevents IMDb from publishing factual information (information about the ages of people in the entertainment industry) on its website for public consumption,” Chhabria wrote in the ruling. “This is a restriction of non-commercial speech on the basis of content.”

SAG-AFTRA, which lobbied for the legislation, said on Wednesday that it was not backing down in a statement from general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland: “We are disappointed that the court has chosen to temporarily halt the State of California’s legal efforts to fully protect its citizens from employment discrimination. We look forward to the upcoming opportunity to present evidence to the Court of how this law will reduce or eliminate the age discrimination facilitated by IMDb.com.”

Crabtree-Ireland also said, “This is an early skirmish in what will be a long-term battle to ensure that entertainment industry workers are granted the same minimum employment protections as all other workers. SAG-AFTRA will continue to fight until we achieve for actors and other entertainment industry professionals, the same rights to freedom from age discrimination in hiring enjoyed by other workers in other industries.”

Legislators were lobbied last year by SAG-AFTRA on the issue, with the performers union contending that the restriction would help combat age discrimination against actors. But the jurist said the state government has the burden to show the restriction is “actually necessary” and has not shown how it will advance the goal of preventing discrimination.

“To be sure, the government has identified a compelling goal – preventing age discrimination in Hollywood,” writes Chhabria. “But the government has not shown how AB 1687 is ‘necessary’ to advance that goal. In fact, it’s not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal antidiscrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end.”

Chhabria found that because the law restricts IMDb’s speech rights, the site is suffering “irreparable harm” and issued the injunction to prevent the government from enforcing the law pending the resolution of the suit. He set a case management conference for March 21.

The judge also expressed skepticism that the government would succeed in the suit. “There is an exceedingly strong likelihood that IMDb will prevail in this lawsuit,” he asserted.

“The government has not argued that birthdates or other age-related facts implicate some privacy interest that protects them from public disclosure, and it’s doubtful such an argument would prevail in any event,” he wrote. “The government is highly unlikely to meet this burden, and certainly nothing it has submitted in opposition to the preliminary injunction motion suggests it will be able to do so.”

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris has contended that she might not have been cast in “Beverly Hills 90210” as high school valedictorian and newspaper editor Andrea Zuckerman had her actual age been known at the time. “Beverly Hills 90210” aired from 1990 to 2000.

SAG-AFTRA filed a motion in January to become a defendant in the suit. The suit was filed against Kamala Harris, who was Attorney General at the time but has been succeeded by Xavier Becerra.

The AARP, which has filed a friend of the court brief in support of Becerra, said Wednesday that it was  disappointed with the court’s ruling.

“This is an early set-back to enjoining California law aimed at preventing age discrimination in the entertainment industry. Age bias is a national problem, and is particularly visible in industries such as advertising and entertainment. In the past decade, we’ve seen progress in Hollywood’s representation of people over 50 on screen, but there is still much work to be done on behalf of older workers—in front of and behind the camera.”

“AARP believes that job seekers should be evaluated on their skills and abilities, not their age. The public has a strong interest in vigorous enforcement of antidiscrimination statutes. We continue to hope that the court will ultimately support this important law that can help prevent age discrimination in the hiring process.”

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SAG-AFTRA Voices Support for ‘Free and Unencumbered Press’ Following Trump Attacks!

February 20, 2017 (22:26) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

February 20, 2017 | 02:58PM PT

SAG-AFTRA has issued a strong statement in support of a “free and unencumbered press,” three days after President Donald Trump attacked journalists from the New York Times, ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC as “the enemy of the American people.”

“As a union whose membership includes broadcast and online journalists, SAG-AFTRA champions the rights of a free press, whose primary role is to provide citizens with the information they need to effectively govern a democracy,” the union said.

“These rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which establishes that the press shall be free from government interference in the dissemination of information, ideas and opinions. SAG-AFTRA, journalists and non-journalists alike, supports a free and unencumbered press and stands with any journalist who might find his or her ability to report on our government challenged or compromised.”

SAG-AFTRA did not mention Trump by name. He has been accusing mainstream outlets such as CNN of “fake news.”

Trump’s comment evoked rebukes from journalists and public figures using the hashtag “#nottheenemy” to defend the role of a free press in the U.S. The union’s statement also elaborated on the role of the press.

“SAG-AFTRA believes first and foremost that citizens in a democracy need the truth. Furthermore, SAG-AFTRA believes that journalists have an obligation to monitor and question those in power, pointing out wrongdoing when they find it, noting when facts asserted are not supported by evidence, and reporting inconsistencies in the positions of public figures.”

“As working professionals, members of the news media have an obligation to verify the accuracy of what they report, with loyalty only to their readers, listeners and viewers and not to any political party, affiliation, or ideology. As a proud labor union representing more than 160,000 broadcasters, actors and entertainers SAG-AFTRA stands with all of its members in ensuring that the basic rights of a free and independent press continue to be upheld.”

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Furthermore He left out Fox news!  But, but, but…
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A Watchdog Observation

February 20, 2017 (17:07) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

An “L”  of a difference of opinions on this Presidents Day.   The current President calls  media reports Fake News.  Many in turn observe his as Flake News!


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