Television is a vast wasteland, according to Newton Minow.

A dose of reality

Posted: 13 November 2007 | posted by David J. Loehr |

First, a video.

Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what the Writers Guild strike is all about?

It's about residuals. This is not an extra payment, this is not a bonus. It is a percentage, or remainder, of the original payment that has been held back, which is then paid out later in the life of a tv show or movie. Every time the studio receives payment for the use of a show or movie, a small percentage is supposed to go to the writer, among others. Sounds fair, right? So what's the problem?

No one wants to pay the writers. The average writer makes pennies on DVD and iTunes sales, if that. And now, the networks and producers claim that they don't make any money through broadband and streaming video. They're trying to claim that streaming video--with ads--is merely a promotional tool. Never mind that the ads are paid for; that payment rises and falls based on the number of eyes watching the video. Never mind that if you were to stick that video stream on your own website, they'd sue you so fast, your head would swim.

Fortunately, I don't have to keep going on and on, because that free, streaming video full of experts above does such a good job of explaining the issue.

No, not one of them is a writer. And yes, these are the same people who are trying to tell us now that there's no money in broadband and digital streaming. They're trying to convince everyone that the writers are trying to gouge more money out of them. These are also the people who are going to flood our screens with ever-dumber reality shows just to fill the air. But the reality is, the writers are only asking for fair compensation for their work.

Several years ago, the Guild ran a series of ads highlighting famous lines and scenes from movies, with the slogan, "Somebody wrote that." Imagine Casablanca without writers. (Wait, thanks to Letterman's staff, you don't have to.) How many reality shows can you quote from? (How many would you want to?)

That's what the Writers Guild strike is all about, Charlie Brown.