ACTIONS: WGA - Send Message to Peter Chernin & FDL - Tell Viacom/Comedy Central Execs to Make a Fair Deal

The WGA has created a TAKE ACTION page. Send a message to Peter Chernin (FOX's CEO) urging him to come back to the negotiating table.

"As a television fan, I urge you to return to the negotiating table with the Writers Guild of America to settle this strike. I want to see new episodes of my favorite programs and this is not possible without the writers."

And, FireDogLake.com has a new petition asking the executives of Viacom/Comedy Central to come back to the negotiating table.

"I want The Daily Show and the Colbert Report to return with the Emmy-winning writing staffs who have made these shows great.

Please go back and negotiate with the WGA to give the writers a fair share."

Click on and add your voice.


derekcbart said...

Hi there.

I have worked on several Comedy Central projects over the past few years and I spoke with one of the executives about TDS earlier today. They tried to work out a deal, but they were unable to because of the split ownership of TDS and CR. Busboy (Jon Stewart's company) and Central Productions (Comedy Central's company) are co-owners of the two shows. I have no idea what the split is, but the executive told me that they had lawyers working on a deal the past couple of weeks but they couldn't work it out because of specific clauses in the ownership contract.

Comedy Central has said that they will honor whatever deal is agreed to, but there is little they can do on their own as a subsidiary of Paramount/Viacom. The CC execs all seem to want to have the writers back. Not just on TDS/CR, but on all of their shows. I get the feeling from talking with them that they wish that they could make a side deal with the WGA, but they cannot because of their corporate ownership.

The One True b!X said...

And, FireDogLake.com has a new petition asking the executives of Comedy Central to come back to the negotiating table.

Unfortunately, that petition gives a false impression and could be used by Comedy Central to support its own position, which was that the WGA should have let the cable network sign an interim deal that only covered these two shows, rather than everything Comedy Central produces.

The Guild's position -- if Comedy Central thinks the WGA terms are good neough for TDS/TCR, they are good enough for all of the network's shows -- is the right one, and a poorly-worded petition is going to muddy the waters.

B said...

I'm not sure that campaigns which urge people to send the same message are ever very successful. Perhaps offering some talking/writing points and asking people to use their own words would be more useful.

Just a thought.

Keep up the good work.

Max said...

Did anyone else feel dirty watching THE DAILY SHOW last night?

I love and respect Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as much as the next guy and I'm sure they'd both be thrilled to singlehandedly hijack the AMPTP and see to it that our every demand is met... even throw in a complimentary TDS mug or t-shirt for our troubles.

But I'm also a striking writer and can't help but view the premature returns of TDS and CR as a betrayal by the very pundits who claim to be on our side. What Stewart and Colbert have done by returning to air in the way that they have amounts to no more than plain, old-fashioned strike-breaking - however well-intentioned.

Stewart's opening monologue was written. Anyone with half a brain could tell. Whether he actually put pen to paper, I cannot say. But, if nothing else, the fact that the segment was intercut with a pre-shot, pre-edited insert depicting an apocryphal 'November 1' broadcast was enough to prove the bit had been conceived, executed and edited in advance - in other words, WRITTEN. It may seem a fine distinction, but it is an essential one. To improvise is one thing. To prepare a segment and execute it as planned is entirely another. And that's what Stewart did in his opening monologue. It pains me to write it, but Jon Stewart is a scab.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning the guy. The prospect of going out to do a more-or-less live show without any pre-planned bits must be terrifying for a comic. I admire the man, believe him to be principled (not to mention hilarious), and appreciate that the jokes he did write for last night's show were supportive of our cause. But let's face it: TDS and CR can carp and jibe and dig all they want about the unmitigated greed of their big, bad corporate parents, but it's Viacom and not the WGA that winds up laughing all the way to the bank.

It would be one thing for Stewart and Colbert to resort to total improvisation. Does anyone remember Craig Ferguson's impromptu monologue about alcoholism and recovery several months back? That was real improv: long, wending, at times moving and brilliant, at other times dull, but definitely not written in advance.

I'll admit: Stewart and Colbert would be my personal heroes if they really put their careers where their mouths are and stayed off the air until we all get to go back to work. But I know heroes only exist in fiction and with the guild on strike, we all have to settle for reality.

And the reality is, Stewart and Colbert are trying to have it both ways. Instead of risking real improv, they've decided to stick to the format of using cleverly edited and juxtaposed video clips. And that means planning their jokes in advance. And that means writing. And that means breaking the strike, whether or not anyone bothered to power on the tele-prompters.

So why did Stewart and Colbert have to return, in the first place? One rationale I've heard draws a distinction between 'late-night' shows and other written programs. The idea seems to be that because late-night shows have hosts who sometimes speak off-the-cuff, these shows are somehow 'less dependent upon writers.' And therefore it is a great tragedy that the writers strike should put all the other hard-working people on whom these shows depend out of a job. This distinction strikes me (no pun intended) as specious and deeply harmful to our cause.

I can appreciate that this strike puts everybody's job in danger, not just writers but those at the various levels of production as well. But isn't that the point? I'm no expert at collective bargaining, but I thought stopping production was the whole purpose of a strike. We writers may be a kindly and sensitive bunch who would like to make our power felt without causing undue pain and suffering or collateral damage, but that's not how the system works. If the actors went on strike, we'd stand by their side and swallow the bitter pill of being out of work for a while; same with the teamsters; same with any other fellow union. We went into this strike with open eyes and the resolve to see to it that the 'town' doesn't go back to work until we do - not a moment sooner.

Now some argue that it's 'good for the cause' to have gentlemen like Stewart and Colbert out there as our spokespeople, telling the world we're doing the right thing; or at least demonstrating by contrast that they're funnier when a whole staff of writers is coming up with their punch lines. This is almost a compelling rationale. We want to believe it. But we can't have our Comedy Central and strike it, too.

The truth is: The more people tune in to watch TDS/CR during the strike, the more people accept the fiction that what they're laughing at has not been 'written', the more people come to accept the notion that writers are irrelevant or at least overrated. If Stewart and Colbert can put on the same pre-planned gags without writers, who needs the WGA?

The fact that Stewart and Colbert are good old-fashioned liberals, sincerely beloved and valued by all, should not buy them a pass when they cross our picket lines and undermine our efforts. They do us no favors by going back on the air, and we do ourselves a disservice to stand idly by as they do so, just because we happen to dig their bits and miss the entertainment - particularly now that we've got all this free time on our hands.

If anyone more intimately aware of the situation surrounding the return of TDS/CR has greater insight into the matter, I would be eager to hear it. I want to believe Stewart and Colbert are doing the right thing. But for now, I'm afraid, I think they've screwed the pooch - and us, in the process.

As a WGA member and an ardent TDS/CR fan, I will be boycotting both shows for the duration of the strike and I encourage the rest of our membership to do likewise. Where's our leverage, if we cross our own picket lines? The pen may be mightier than the sword, but we've all decided to gamble our futures on the proposition that putting down the pen will be the mightiest stroke of all.


Stewart and Colbert, put down your pens. And if you have to stay on the air, wing it for real!

Or not. Who are we kidding? We can't stay mad at you for long. You're our nerdy heroes. When all is said and done, we'll let bygones be bygones and put you right back in the pantheon where you belong...

But for now, as far as I'm concerned, you can stay in the doghouse.

Lisa said...

The Daily Show exposed the fact that they did approach the WGA about a deal (and the company consented to allow that deal) and the WGA turned them down. We want to know the WGA's side. TELL US.


The One True b!X said...

We already know the Guild's side:

"If Comedy Central wanted to come to us and sign the deal for the whole network, we were willing to do that."

derekcbart said...

Hi there.
As I stated previously, Comedy Central would like to sign an agreement, but they are unable to because of their corporate owners, i.e.: Viacom. They were hoping to find a loophole for TDS and CR because Busboy has partial ownership of those shows, but the lawyers couldn't work it out.

The One True b!X said...

They were hoping to find a loophole for TDS and CR because Busboy has partial ownership of those shows, but the lawyers couldn't work it out.

The thing about this that confuses me is that if CC doesn't have the authority to make a network-wide deal, I don't get how they could have the authority to "abide by" any deal cut just for TDS/TCR either.

derekcbart said...

They were hoping that they could cut a WWP type of deal because of Busboy's co-ownership where Busboy could sign the agreement and CC would just broadcast the shows (like WWP and CBS). However, all of the owners had to agree to the deal and Viacom wouldn't.