Hey, Television Is Already So Bad, I Bet We Hardly Notice …
Mediated contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood producers broke off last night setting the stage for a writers’ strike that could leave sitcoms without scripts, late-night shows without topical monologues and television viewers with an even more limited choice of broadcast dross than they have now (“America’s Next Top Model,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “Farmer Wants a Wife” on the CW! How will I ever decide?)
Seems writers and producers still can’t agree on pay schedules for content distributed on the Internet and via other digital media. Or rather, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers is a bit too attached to the lousy DVD deal it convinced the writers to agree to 20 years ago, which gives writers, directors and actors a combined 20 cents for each DVD sale–30 cents less than the sum given to manufacturers of DVD packaging material.
“The companies refused to continue to bargain unless we agree that the hated DVD formula be extended to Internet downloads,” the guild said in a statement. “[W]e presented the AMPTP with a comprehensive package of proposals that included movement on DVDs, new media, and jurisdictional issues. We also took nine proposals off the table. The companies returned six hours later and said they would not respond to our package until we capitulated to their Internet demand. After three and a half months of bargaining, the AMPTP still has not responded to a single one of our important proposals.”
Too bad for the writers then. Because AMPTP president Nick Counter says increasing the DVD formula (a huge money-maker for the studios) is a nonstarter. “We want to make a deal,” he told WGA negotiators. “We think doing so is in your best interests, in your members’ best interests, in the best interests of our companies and in the best interests of the industry. But, as I said, no further movement is possible to close the gap between us so long as your DVD proposal remains on the table.”
Way to extend that desiccated olive branch, Nick. As John Scott Lewinski notes over at Wired, the producers offering to settle if the Guild drops all that is like the Galactic Empire telling Luke Skywalker, “OK, we’ll surrender … but only if we get to keep the Death Star.”