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WGAE gets back to the picket lines

January 7, 2008 | 10:36 am


Writers Guild of America, East, President Michael Winship just sent this letter to members this morning:

Wednesday, January 9, will mark our first big picketing event of the New Year. We'll be back at Viacom, parent company of Paramount, MTV and Comedy Central, among others, 44th and Broadway, from 11 am to 2 pm.

Be sure to join us. A huge demonstration of support and solidarity will let the AMPTP know that the holidays are over! In other words, get serious, guys, and come back to the table.

As previously noted, additionally, there will be smaller pickets at three late night show locations Monday through Thursday, being organized by individual strike captains. If you have not yet been assigned a captain, please contact Leah in the organizing department at or by phone (212-767-7841) and she will assign a strike captain to get in touch with you.

Each week, I see in the media statistics and figures that further demonstrate to me the rightness of our cause, especially when it comes to a share of the Internet and new media. For example, the Hollywood Reporter last week offered a sneak peek at an upcoming "State of the Media Democracy" report from the accounting giant Deloitte & Touche. Their survey indicates that 38% of American consumers are watching television shows online and 36% use their cell phones as “entertainment devices” -- up from 24% just eight months ago. Twenty percent say they view video content on their cell phones "daily or almost daily."

As far as dollars and cents go, when I see numbers such as last week's report that the majors saw a nine percent jump in overseas box office last year -- a record $9.4 billion worth -- the justice and equity we seek seem more of a bargain than ever.

A couple of weeks ago, Chuck Slocum, an assistant executive director of the Writers Guild, West, and I sat down for a conference call with financial analysts at Bear Stearns, the global investment firm. It was listened to by investors from all over, including, we're told, at least a couple of CEO's from the studios and networks.

Shortly after, following a thorough and objective evaluation, Bear Stearns issued a report stating, "From Wall Street's perspective, we estimate the impact of accepting the [writers'] proposal is largely negligible." Noting the projected cost of our proposals, the publication Media Daily News wrote, "The firm [Bear Stearns] estimates that the $120 million figure would carry an average impact of less than 1% on annual earnings per share for the media companies. That does not factor in any concessions by the writers' side, where the principal issue is a desire for a piece of ad dollars from new-media distribution."

So why are the studios and networks so resistant? It would be easy to say greed but it's also about fear, fear of the unknown. We know that the outlook for new media is uncertain. It's a risk we're willing to take, a future we're eager and willing to explore, either with or without them. How much better it would be to do so together, with mutual interest, respect and an equitable contract.

See you at Viacom on Wednesday.

In solidarity,
Michael Winship

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