UPDATE: From John Bowman WGA Negotiating Committee Chair

(This just in from John Bowman of the WGA Negotiating Committee.)

Fellow Guild Members:

Rumors, half-truths, and misinformation about what is actually happening at the bargaining table fly across the internet, are posted on blogs, passed across picket lines like a game of telephone, and appear in stories and advertisements in the trade papers.

So, to clarify exactly where we are, we have prepared a report and analysis:

(Click here for the report.)

In the meantime, here’s a brief summary:

The latest WGA proposal would cost the companies $151 million over three years. It is reasonable, serious, and easily affordable. For instance, it would cost Sony only $1.68 million per year. Paramount and CBS would each pay only $4.66 million per year. MGM would pay only $320,000 per year.

The AMPTP claims its proposal would give us $130 million over three years. Our analysis – and again, please visit the website to see for yourself – tells us their offer is worth only $32 million. But if you factor in the companies’ regressive proposal on “promotional use” (streaming TV shows and feature films in their entirety for free) writers could potentially lose $100 million in income over the course of this contract.

So while we don’t see how their proposal adds up to anywhere near $130 million, we greet their public willingness to make such an offer with real interest. If the AMPTP is serious about this figure, the WGA is confident we are closer to a deal than anyone has suggested, and we are hopeful that the companies will respond positively to our proposal, which is a serious, reasonable, and affordable attempt to bridge the gap between us.


John F. Bowman

Chair, WGA Negotiating Committee


BTL Guy said...

The link provided is for WGA members only, which I think is justifiable.

However, can anyone fill in some details from Kate Purdy's earlier post? That info was a bit friend-of-a-friend; do the details posted jibe with the official offer? Can anyone provide figures to replace the "X bucks for X streams?"


Captain Obvious said...

Half of the link is somewhat broken and links to a mail server. Might want to fix that.

Frustrated Bystander said...

Same link -- open at WGAE here...


Tyrone said...

How and why is Bowman sending this email out to members at the time he did? Shouldn't he be inside the room bargaining???

And what exactly was the point of the letter? Was it to tell us that they're making progress? Or to tell the public in advance that the AMPTP hasn't budged one bit in today's talks. I couldn't at all get a sense of hope from his note.

We should find out an actual date for when the AMPTP will seriously begin to negotiate because then and only then will we have any kind of sense of when this strike will end, which unfortunately won't end for some time...

Daniel T Thomsen said...

Tyrone, I think the only point of the email is exactly as stated: to give people a sense of how the WGA is approaching the counter offer. The update you're looking for (an account of progress, a sense of hope, etc) will come from the presidents of the WGAw and WGAe. John's just the negotiator. As to your point of the timing of the email, I'm not sure when it was written, but the emails are not always written at the same time they're released. He could've drafted it before today's session, or during a break, and then sent it along to the guild for distribution.

Dina said...

If DVD residuals aren't back in the WGA proposals, and in an amount that makes up for the loss of broadcast residuals, then I'm still not voting for this pig.

According to the Negotiating Committee document that John Bowman links to here, DVDs are still off the table.

Caitlin said...

What daniel said. Anyway, I'll take a break for a quick, calm, e-mail that is not naive at all but does keep the faith over a multi-day one in which both sides yell at eachother any day.

DLJ said...

What about internet jurisdiction? It's unclear to me whether or not they're still trying to get jursidiction over signatory-generated internet content, as opposed to the AMPTP's offer of jurisdiction over content derived from other programming.

The report on the WGAw's page clearly has a line for reality jurisdiction, but the internet line is very vague. Please tell me they haven't given up on that...

Captain Obvious said...

I agree about DVDs. As a non-guild writer I may not have a say in it, but it still seems like weakness to not pressure the Alliance into keeping the faith on home video after 20 years of enduring the ramifications of 1988.

The Alliance wrote huge checks on the backs of the good faith of writers. Time to pay the piper!

not a troll said...

I just want this to be over and captain obvious, I didn't know you weren't a member of the guild. I wonder how many people who post here are working members of the guild. Maybe when this is all over we can take a poll.

Captain Obvious said...

I'm working on it, and definitely identify with guilded writers. Just need to qualify. I'm not the non-guild writer sort that's already in the business. Definitely no scabbing. Would hate for the horror writers to eat me.

MrKlaatu said...

I actually see the studios' side on Internet jurisdiction.

With film and TV, each of their competitors (the other studios) are making the same deals with the unions. But for original Internet content, they will have a hard time competing with other players (YouTube, MSN, etc.) if those companies can produce original material without havng to pay minimums.

In exchange for jurisdiction, we would in turn have to promise that no WGA member -- or even possible future member -- can write for any Internet company, unless they become signatory to the WGA and agree to the terms of any new MBA. There has to be a level playing field.

John Aboud said...

Hey, all. So I'm not sure what was up with the funky broken link, but it's fixed now. It wasn't on a private page or anything; it was always publicly accessible.

Anyway, it's fixed now. Go check it out.

My sources haven't told me what if anything the AMPTP "second half" turned out to be. (At least not as of 8:45pm.)

And I guess in the spirit of good relations, if the second half didn't materialize, I'll be disappointed but I won't snarl any "toldjas." (Though I suspect Nikki Finke will blow a gasket.) All of you regular commenters are smart folks and can draw your own conclusions. Personally, I hope the plan materialized and that it was halfway decent. Even halfway decent is progress.

Scott Goodwin said...

Not a Troll--just because Captain Obvious isn't a guild member shouldn't disqualify him from having and sharing an opinion.

I, like a lot of folks here, came because I was urged by some writer/bloggers I respect (Jane Espenson, John August) to visit the site and learn more about the issues and why writers are striking.

I've learned so much between this site and Nikki Finke's and whole-heartedly support you getting a fair deal. Don't start making visitors feel unwelcome unless you want to turn this into a private clubhouse and lose your larger public support.

Oh--and on the real issue, John Bowman's note says worlds, even without reading the details. To me, it signals to the producers that
a) you said what your starting number is--$130 million
b) it's a B.S. number; the facts don't fit
c) here's a way to get to a reasonable counter-offer IF you're serious about your number
Now the producers have to either negotiate around that number or be outed as liars.

not a troll said...

I wasn't dissing captain obvious! I will be glad when this strike is over so tensions won't be so high.

darbyflier said...

DVD increase off the table better reap some quick settlement. Why keep that back in good faith? I hope they are getting the same spirit from the producers in these meetings.... it sure doesn't come through in the PR bs. I still think the producers have an acceptable deal ready to go and are just playing cat and mouse to see if they can improve it for themselves before offering it.

Captain Obvious said...

Everybody loves Captain Obvious!

...except the Alliance...

(ba dum bum)

Aryoch said...

As someone who makes his living creatively (I have been making computer games for 11+ years), I definitely sympathize with the writers on this issue.

Since the beginning of the strike, I have wondered if there was anything strategically the WGA could have done differently that might have made a significant difference. I am not a member of the WGA, so please forgive me if this idea is impossible due to the nature of the union.

In terms of economics, the networks are basically a cartel. They compete with each other to a limited extent, but in a very large way they benefit by working together. Some of the most obvious examples of their cartel behavior can be seen in simple ways that we have come to ignore. For example, nobody ever puts a prime time entertainment tv show on during a Presidential speech, despite knowing they would trounce everyone else in ratings.

The thing about a cartel is that anything that hurts all of them, in some ways hurts none of them. This strike really doesn't hurt them all that badly since they are all affected equally. Where else can advertisers hawk their wares? In a large way, the advertisers are still going to pony up to put their ads on tv whether it is reruns, reality TV, or anything else the networks dream up.

A lot of people I know have said that when the shows go into reruns they will take the opportunity to watch shows they heard were good but never got to watch before. They will do this via DVDs (renting or buying) or the internet. Since the revenues from those methods of viewing are a large part of the problem here, that actually works in FAVOR of the networks.

So, with all of that background out of the way, here is my idea.

The WGA needs to let half of their writers cross the picket lines. They should pick 2 of the big 4 networks, and pass a resolution that lets all of the writers for those shows cross the picket lines and return to work. They can either pick the 2 networks that are most sympathetic to their cause, or they can pick them at random for all the world to see.

What would this accomplish?

Well, the 2 networks who got their writers back would have all new episodes airing against reruns for the other networks. Advertisers would abandon the "rerun networks" rapidly and invest almost all of their money into the networks with writers.

All of a sudden, you have divided and conquered, as the networks stuck with reruns are now in a severely negative financial situation and have a very real motivation to negotiate.

Maybe I am naive and maybe there are flaws in this idea. But it definitely sounds like a strategy that might actually put some hurt on the networks. Right now, it is far too easy for them to just ride things out. When you turn the networks against each other, things might change rapidly.

-Michael Hartman

Captain Obvious said...

It's not naive at all, Aryoch, and welcome to the table my game development friend.

We've been discussing possibly; simply abandoning their entire structure.

Independent development is really something that's definitely on our own private table here as writers.

We should turn the tables. Make them have to beg us for content.

Make the content outside the Alliance's hands in spite of the strike, and watch what happens.

We would need a coalition of financiers and some leverage. I'm holding onto a script that may help with some of that.

Captain Obvious said...

...and really, with everyone railing about the strike happening to begin with, if we do independent productions when the Alliance won't play nice there never really has to be much of a strike ever again.

Granted the shows the studios own will still have to strike and those people will have to find other work in the independent industry.

Seriously, though, I can't fathom a mass media system functioning like this. If the Alliance drags this out past Christmas they need to know that the New Year will mark a New Era.


Captain Obvious said...

That needs to happen in all of these industries, even yours perhaps to some extent from some of the game development working conditions horror stories I've heard.

The distribution network is so interconnected and colluded that we really should separate creative production again as much as possible from it..

Industry needs to pull back a bit.

Skyfleur said...

Aryoch. Your suggestion is brilliant and it's hardly naive except there is a major flaw in it. You started with the assumption shows are made by networks. They're not, they're produced by the majors (20th Fox, Warner Bros, Viacom etc). Of course, networks and majors are different companies of the same congloms but in essence, to do what you suggest, you need to pick not two networks but specific shows and cross the lines. Like you'll pick all the shows on ABC and NBC, some are produced by Warner, some by NBCU, some by 20th century fox.
That will certainly put a spin on the competition between networks, but pretty much all the studios would benefit from this move.
That's the major flaw of your idea and gosh do I love it, it's just not feasible with the vertical integration.

Aryoch said...

Aha. That is indeed an issue, Skyfleur. As I noted, I am merely an observer (and philosophical ally) who works in a different industry. As such, I appreciate being educated.

Is the spirit of the idea at all possible?

Is there any way to selectively return some writers to work in order to turn the majors and/or networks against each other?

When I look at the situation as it is playing out, it just seems like the AMPTP members are hardly suffering. Worse, the way viewers are likely to react could actually help them financially (buying or renting DVDs, or watching shows online).

It seems like the only hope is to divide the members of the AMPTP so they are no longer "suffering" equally and thereby give them a motive to resolve the matter.

Skyfleur said...

it's feasible if you pick two networks and you look at their shows and only start working on those.
The network that is supposed to lose the most from the strike is CBS, parent is Viacom. Disney (ABC) won't feel the hurt, I don't know for NBC (GE) and Fox (News Corp) is supposed to reap the benefit of the strike. Fox is supposed to be the least affected because of its alternative programming, I think.

If I had my way, I would go for ABC or NBC just because these are the two networks I watched the most. So I'm kind of selfish in that regard ;) But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a good idea, except for NBC which has been struggling for the past four years.

So the idea is brilliant, maybe someone could take it and expand it and make it work. Who Knows.

Captain Obvious said...

What I was referring to was more a long-term solution to Alliance meddling.

We need to move away from them ponying up the money and controlling production all the time. They'll still control it much of the time but it's not the same thing. Whenever possible we need to focus the Alliance's attention on vying for distribution across their channels instead of allowing them to almost always own the product outright, and then only grant them the right to distribute the content if they come bowing and scraping to negotiate with the content creators. They need to be re-taught their place. They seem to believe money is all-powerful and their contribution of it to the process should be deified. Yet money is merely a catalyst to get the words from the paper to the screen. The content creators do all the real work. I don't see bank notes writing scripts, manning cameras, and reciting the lines. Unfortunately that's all the Alliance sees; figures and financial impact statements. Sad, really, for such to be the masters of a creative empire.

JimBob said...

Aryoch's idea is a good one, and it has been codified as a "favored nations" deal in the past. Entity A agrees to agree by whatever deal is ultimately signed between the union and the companies, in exchange for being allowed to return to production now, today. The assumption here is that Les Moonves, let's say -- head of a network that doesn't have the deep pockets of Disney or GE behind it (though Viacom ain't exactly chopped liver) -- is willing to buck his colleagues at the other networks, put his thumb in the eye of his feature-producing tennis partners, and take a deal now. That's problematic, but possible. Les would have to give up his seat at Mr. Chow and travel around town in a blacked-out armored limo, but maybe it would be worth it. The divide-and-conquer aspect is certainly a juicy thing to contemplate, though as someone pointed out, we'd have to pick certain shows to put back to work, which would benefit the studios that make them as well as piss off those writers whose shows don't happen to be chosen (watching others make money while you picket isn't anyone's idea of a fair or enjoyable state of affairs).
In short, it's complicated, but definitely worth working on.

BTL Guy said...

In a world of independent internet production, I'm curious about the budgets you would be looking at and how you would pay the crew.

It's true that bank notes aren't "manning cameras, and reciting the lines," but as a general rule, writers aren't doing so either. (of course there are exceptions)

Would you be paying union scale to your crew, or giving a percentage of ownership?

I've worked on some direct-to-internet programming in exchange for a cut of the profits, but low-and-behold the profits never materialized.

I still valued the experience, and would do it again, but I can't pay my mortgage this way.

I'm not aware of any strictly-for-the-internet show that had a big enough budget to pay it's crew union scale.

You have to keep in mind that, in bypassing the producers (and I'm all in favor of independent production), YOU become the producer.

It's true that the internet opens a world of possibilities, and that you don't need the big congloms to make some truly exciting and engaging content.

But, so far at least, this has been a mom-and-pop operation.

And it's been non-union.

BTL Guy said...

To add one more point, repeat programming that has so far been a hit on internet streaming -- shows such as Lost and 24 and The Office -- don't make enough off of the internet to cover their budgets.

Captain Obvious said...

I'm moving away from the notion of internet-only. It doesn't have to be that way at all.

All I'm saying is that production should be taken out of the Alliance's hands so long as they're being stubborn about playing fair. That which is made can later be negotiated for distribution on their channels; but I'm sure that, with the right financiers interested and involved, we could operate things exactly as the congloms do; just without their attitudes and without the horror stories of the writer's story getting botched to suit the suits.

I really see this as a golden opportunity to right some things. To revive the creative process and permanently punish the Alliance for being so insolent.