Strike, We’re Out

A war rages on in Iraq that most of us manage to ignore. And although thousands of jobs across the country are being lost and countless homes in foreclosure, we don’t even seem to know. But take away our TV, then we notice.

The writer’s strike has reached its twelfth week now and the end still seems nowhere in sight. Landmark dates, like the Golden Globe Awards, have come and gone without any resolution. For the general public, the strike seemed meaningless when it began. But the longer it dragged on, the negative consequences became more visible. For the vast majority of ABC, FOX, CBS and other major networks, the average television shows will only have half of their episodes available for airing this season. I’m sure we’re all aware that LOST will only show eight episodes this season. Shows like Heroes and Desperate Housewives have already had finales, and other shows have strung out their seasons by placing two week gaps in between new episodes.

Of course other productions have been adversely affected by the strike. Late night TV standards like Late Night with Conan O’Brien or the Late Show with David Letterman were off the air for over eight weeks. For a span of close to 40 episodes, these shows had to resort to airing reruns. It was so bad that at one point last November, I turned on the Tonight Show to see a Jay Leno with dark hair telling a joke from the Monica Lewinsky era. Perhaps the only perk of the strike was the abbreviated version of the Golden Globes that took half the time of a typical award show and went on without long-winded, political speeches by the winners. Yet, even the boycotted version of the show came at cost.

I’m not saying that the Writers Guild Strike is the most important issue plaguing our nation today. Certainly the presidential race, tanking economy and ever-draining war should be captivating the bulk of our attention and resources. However, I do believe that the Writers Guild Strike needs to be resolved soon. The writers have a legitimate dispute and the strike is depressing a job market and the American television viewers.

From the outside it may seem like writers are making enough money that they shouldn’t be striking, but that’s never stopped baseball players or the NHL. Maybe they are pulling down huge salaries, but they are not getting profits from the places where they deserve it. Evidence shows that home video sales far exceed the proceeds made from box office sales. Yet, writers receive only .3 percent of the first million made from video/DVD sales, and only .36 percent of anything on top of that. A writer really should be entitled to more than that. Also, the last couple years have practically made owning a TV obsolete because every major network allows viewers to watch full-length episodes online. Other shows can be downloaded from iTunes or other distributors for small fees. These new media options of streaming video and internet sales could generate significant revenue as they are quickly becoming one of the most used avenues of distribution. The writers are unwilling, and rightly so, to accept a deal similar to what they have for home video/DVD sales.

Perhaps more importantly, the strike is devastating a major industry. Think of all the struggling actors. Like there weren’t enough out-of-work actors waiting tables in the LA area before! With writers on strike there aren’t parts for good, big name actors, let alone all the others trying to make it. That also means production and filming crews are out of work. Companies manufacturing items used by the film industry, like props, costumes, camera equipment and film, must also be suffering from the shrunken market. Shows like Access Hollywood, the E! network, and celebrity-focused magazines have a lack of material to work with. Even designers are feeling the effects. The Emmy’s are likely to air without live appearances from any of the actors, just like the Golden Globes did, and perhaps the Academy Awards will be the same. Normally designers like Oscar de la Renta, and Carolina Herrera flaunt their creations on all the actresses walking the red carpet at these shows. (Plus that provides for weeks worth of footage and drama to fill hours of backstage Hollywood shows and even special editions of People Magazine).

Finally, the writers strike sucks for the common man. After a long day of work, lots of people like to relax in front of a good sitcom. How many Grey’s Anatomy parties were on campus Thursday nights here at Colgate? Plenty of people rely on news commentary shows like the Colbert Report as their only source of news. While it isn’t as good as actually talking or doing something active, TV does bond us together. Families love to do dinner in front of the TV. TV shows also create a common thread between people who may not have any other similarities.

At the time of deadline there were plans to reopen negotiations between the writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Hopefully, it will lead to a quick agreement, because let’s be honest: We want our TV back.