Hollywood writers launch strike over streaming and AI issues

The Writers Guild of America, the union representing Hollywood screenwriters, called a strike beginning at 12:01 a.m. PT on Tuesday after talks with major studios and streamers broke down over wage increases and concerns over the role of artificial intelligence in screenwriting projects.

The WGA published a tweet Monday at 8:38 p.m., specifying that its board of directors “voted unanimously to call a strike”.

Picketing begins Tuesday afternoon, with the strike set to disrupt work on films, scripted TV series, late-night shows and streaming productions.

“The decision was made after six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the auspices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The committee The WGA Negotiator entered this process with the intention of reaching a fair deal, but the responses from the studios have been woefully insufficient given the existential crisis the writers are facing,” the WGA said in a statement.

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The guild represents more than 11,000 screenwriters in Los Angeles, New York, and other cities, to a lesser extent.

The WGA has accused studios of “devaluing” writing as a profession as studio executives get richer.

“The behavior of the companies has created an economy of labor within a union workforce, and their unwavering position in this bargaining betrayed their commitment to further devaluing the writing profession,” the union said.

“From their refusal to guarantee a level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a “day rate” in comedy variety, to their blocking of free labor for screenwriters and AI for all writers, they closed the door to their workforce and opened the door to writing as a fully independent profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by these members,” the WGA added.

The AMPTP, which represents the studios, countered by saying it had made a “generous” offer to the WGA.

“The AMPTP presented the guild with a comprehensive package proposal last night that included generous increases to writers’ compensation as well as improvements to streaming residuals,” the organization said in a statement. “The AMPTP has also indicated to the WGA that it is willing to improve this offer, but is unwilling to do so due to the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to pursue. The main sticking points are mandatory staffing and tenure, guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether it is necessary or not.

The AMPTP added that it is committed to engaging in future discussions to end the “lockdown”.

“AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a mutually beneficial agreement for writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship for the thousands of employees who depend on the industry for their livelihood,” the statement read. continued. “The AMPTP is ready to engage in discussions with the WGA in an effort to resolve this impasse.”

Among the issues on the negotiating table:
-The WGA is pushing for salary increases and residuals for streaming content. The guild specifically wants higher residual compensation for streaming programs that have higher viewership, instead of the current model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show’s success.
-The union is asking for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show
-The union wants producers to ‘regulate the use of artificial intelligence’ on entertainment projects

As streaming grows in popularity, thanks to growing amounts of content from Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, Apple and Peacock, the WGA says the median salary of writer-producers has fallen 4% over the past decade. , or 23% after adjusting for inflation.

“While corporate profits have remained strong and content spending has increased, writers are lagging behind,” the WGA said.

Union members voted overwhelmingly in April to authorize a strike if talks failed. According to the WGA, 97.8% of members supported the strike authorization vote.

It’s the first time Hollywood writers have gone on strike in 15 years.

The last strike began in November 2007, with the writers being out of work for 100 days, halting Hollywood production. This strike was over “new media” pay – as streaming began to take off.

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