Studios begin legal action against strikers

tv_StrikeSource2.jpg

Television writers are currently walking the sidewalks of Hollywood, New York City, and other US locales where shows are filmed as part of the Writers Guild of America strike.

But what happens when television writers not only pen the scripts, but also produce the show? Most of those mulling the idea of either striking with writers or attending to their nonwriting duties have opted for the former to support the cause.

The result has caused mayhem in TV land as several shows--Family Guy, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, among others--have been shut down because their show runners refuse to cross the picket line. The Office's Greg Daniels has voiced his opinion and supported the cause over YouTube, and Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane is leaving Fox with only one fresh episode of the animated hit because he won't help finish several episodes that are close to being ready.

The studios initially believed that show runners would proceed with their nonwriting duties, but what they're finding is that most of them are out on the sidewalk joining in the WGA chants.

Now the studios are fighting back. CBS Paramount and 20th Century Fox have sent out breach-of-contract letters to picketing show runners, according to The New York Times, bringing forth the first major legal move of the strike. The Times cites anonymous sources who did not say which show runners were sent the notices.

The letters informed the show runners that their pay is being suspended, and at least in 20th Century Fox's case, the letters specifically said it is for failure to "report to work and render their nonwriting producing services."

Meanwhile, crewmembers on shows that have stopped production are beginning to get pink slips. According to Reuters, 20th Century Fox Television has already let go of writers' assistants, but will continue to pay their health benefits through the end of the year.

Over at NBC, a shutdown of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno has forced the network to set a date of late next week for terminating the entire nonwriting staff, says Broadcasting & Cable. The same is allegedly holding true for the crew of Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

However, there could be a late-hour reprieve. The jobs of Leno's late-night talk-show workers can be saved one of two ways: if Leno decides to cross the picket line--something he says he won't do--and host the show without writers, or if NBC opts to find guest hosts to fill in.

For more on the writers strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.

Comments (61)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
How much do writers make? i'm sure it's alot more than most people here, even if they don't recieve royalties, and all they want is more...Now how much do soldiers make? probably less than most people here, and they don't complain, and their jobs are alot more important than what these writers do...in short these writers gotta cowboy the f*** up or quit.
Reply
Flag
Some of you are really stupid. It all comes down to this,the writers are not being paid fairly. Every time a music artist's song is purchased either on cd, itunes, used in commercials or on tv and movies, they get compensated. Don't you think the writers deserve the same. The writers are the soul of the shows and movies. With out them you would only have reality shows and crappy movies like the ones staring Stephen Baldwin. Please God help the writers. I need the Office back on the air.
Reply
Flag
People are seriously misunderstanding the nature of the residuals being asked for apparently. Most of what is being discussed applies almost entirely to website distribution - which is NOT the future of the industry. It doesn't have any real effect on the On Demand models which are what the real focus will move towards.



Either way, there is a basic concept that I will borrow from another post that is easy to apply here. And that is the building of a house. First, there are two types of writers for the most part. "Creative writers" and "hired guns". If you create a show, you get an entirely different billing than basic writing - one that comes with more inherent return. The other writers are essentially contract workers. The example I saw put forth by one producer(who is the only producer who put it in a way that I actually liked what he said, as just because I'm against the WGA doesn't mean im for the Studios either) was simple. Writers are hired to do a job, and they get paid for it(but not enough on the front end, hence the increased salary issue). From the perspective of the aforementioned producer, this is equivalent to building a house in order to rent it out, then being required to pay residuals from the money you make off of rent to the builders who worked on the house. They were paid to do a job, but the person or entity who invests the money, as well as any notable driving forces(ie: the creator), are the ones who should reap the greatest benefit. To say that it is the RIGHT of the writers(or anyone) to receive residuals is simply not true. They have ALREADY BEEN PAID FOR THEIR WORK(though once again, not enough, going back to the increased salary issue for the millionth time). And remember, this does not apply to show creators or "show runners" are they liked to be called, as they have a different billing altogether than simply being a "writer".
More+
Reply
Flag
Wow, it sounds like a lot of people who posted are dismissing the writers strike as an unnecessary inconvenience. I love my select few tv shows as well, but I think of myself being put into the writers position and can't help but sympathize with what they've had to do. Labelling the writers as being selfish or greedy is also pretty ignorant, considering they're now being forced to picket for money that is rightfully owed to them. Without their creative work and effort, the networks would not be profitting the way they have been. Why should a person have to go on strike to be compensated for the work they've done and not been paid for?



Other posters claimed they'd love to have the jobs that the writers and other staff are striking from... there are obvious reasons they don't have their jobs to begin with. If the negative posters were in the writers positions, I'm sure their attitudes would change very quickly, with the networks profitting from their work and giving nothing in return. Also, the wage discussion and the negative opinions some have made are frustrating to hear. Some people use their talents in life to find a job where they can work for only a few months in a year, others work year round for less money... people live with their choices and act accordingly. If you have a profitable job, you have a profittable job... and the writers work is most definitely profitable for their employers, who wouldn't otherwise make that money. It's completely ignorant to argue that simply because some people make less money in life, the writers should settle for anything less than they're actually worth. Just my opinion on the whole matter... I believe in equality for everyone, and I find the lack of understanding by some people disheartening. I'll catch my shows when they return, and my respect for Steve Carrell is unwavering.
More+
Reply
Flag
now, correct me if i'm wrong, but don't various networks put up the money to produce these shows in the first place? So, its the networks who pay for everything... if they have to give up thier income for a few individuals, wouldn't that mean less money to actually create the shows in the first place? So less special effects, more chance of cancellation if the shows don't get good ratings first up (and we KNOW how much we hate that) And less chances being taken on new shows... As i said, i may be wrong, thats just how i understood how it works from my non-american perspective :)
Reply
Flag
What kateinabox said is right on the nose. Before too long, there won't be TV as we know it today. As people get more and more used to DVR and watching online, it will be all online content that's released on a weekly or daily basis. You'll get your HD screen, pull it into your internet and watch the show. And guess what? The producers are not obligated to give the writers a dime of residuals for it because they can claim "it's for promotional use only", which is what they are doing now. So it will affect ALL writers in the long run, not just the millionaires.
Reply
Flag
While I agree with the wage increase as mentioned below the residual thing is something that does need to be taken care of because the system is moving away from physical formats and going digital. The Writers got cheated the last time when a new media arrived and they are just making sure they make SOMETHING. It is an issue that needs to be resolved before they get stuck with the short end of the stick like they were with VHS. The next thing they probably will go for is a pay scale increase... but they need to secure the digital media...since that is where everything is going!
Reply
Flag
The strike is complete crap. I started out in support of their basic goal, but the WGA has lost all of their moral high ground with rhetoric and forcing people to breach contracts. The show runners who double in other capacities have a LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY to honor their contracts regardless of the status of the writing - and the whole concept they can be tricked into writing as well if they show up for those positions is simply absurd.



I have also recently come across a number of interesting articles by people in the industry(primarily in a large discussion spurred by an LA Times blog from a below the line employee) that further tarnish any standing the WGA might have had. The fact of the matter is what they are asking for, greater residuals on things such as DVDs and digital distribution, only will benefit the writers who are ALREADY MILLIONAIRES. Most people see mere pennies out of the deal. If they actually cared about their rank and file members, they would be fighting for increased wages not residuals(ie: money on the front end), as apparently there has been a severe lack of scaling over the years for most positions(in the aforementioned LA Times blog discussion, one man mentioned that when he started decades ago he made about 25$ an hour, and when he left the industry recently that had only raised to 28$ for example).



The whole situation has gotten out of hand because of typical politics in a union with such a large range of financial worth among its members - and if they were serious about doing anything but flexing their muscle or padding their elites pockets(who by the way are not affected at all by the strike), they would go back to the negotiation table with either a sane residual figure to get it over with(remember, the number decided upon will also be what the directors and actors will have their percentages based upon come their respective negotiations as well, so it is a lot larger than it first appears) or opt for the alternate and far more obtainable route of salary increases(which would also then benefit below the line workers who currently are suffering for no gain).



Meanwhile, below the line workers are losing their jobs with nothing to show for it in the end(as they do not receive residuals except for in specific union funds), low income writers are losing a ridiculous amount of money they desperately need, and writers trying to become established during the current television season are finding their projects in a position that they are doomed to fail.



All so Tina Fey and people like her can buy another house that costs more than many people make their entire lives.
More+
Reply
Flag
What difference does it make how much writers get paid to whether their complaints are valid? Writers, like most people, get paid what their jobs are worth; most of us just don't see the correlation as clearly as they do (thanks to the residuals system). Even if writers are paid absurd fortunes, they are paid that way because the revenues generated by their hard work and creativity directly earn their employers even greater fortunes.
Reply
Flag
I support the writers 100%. I can't believe some of these post. Writers don't get paid as much as you think. Does anyone know any writers? I would say no. Comparing cops and fireman to Hollywood is comparing apples and oranges. Sure they should be paid more but then taxes would get raised blah, blah blah. That's another issue and it's off topic.


Anyway I do however feel really bad for the people losing their jobs. People should be made at the studios not the writers. Dvd sales and the internet is a new way for studios to make money and the writers aren't included. Don't forget to remember the past. Remember the 1988 writer's strike over syndication residuals?!? It's the same thing and in the end the writers won. So strike on writers! When the shows go into reruns thanks to your strike in 1988 you'll still get paid. :lol: Sure reruns will suck and the networks putting reality shows on even worse, but hey that gives me more time to play video games.



Vbarkman - Great post.
Everyone please read vbarkman post!
Reply
Flag
True, but you WOULD see them strike if they were told they'd be paid X number of dollars and were paid significantly less than that because of some loophole.
Reply
Flag
I think the writers should get over it. They don't really need the extra money. They get paid enough. I want to see my tv shows. You don't see Fire fighters and Police men going out on strike and they definately don't make enough money. The writers have to stop being babies and get over it.
Reply
Flag
I agree with one of the posters said above, that unions wrecked the manufacturing industry in this country. Unions can perform a valuable function, but too often they push for unrealistic goals not realizing that their companies aren't the lone forces in the marketplace and that foreign companies are more than happy to take advantage of the situation. That isn't going to happen here, but the best of all possible worlds would be for the negotiating teams to stop acting like children and get back to talking. The networks and studios need to get real and give the writers a greater share of the pie, yet they realize if they cave in here they're going to have to do the same thing with the actors and other unions whose contract expirations are coming up.
Reply
Flag
I support the writers side only because they aren't really striking to get extra money, they are striking to get money they are already owed.

Not sure if anyone has read it or not, but one of the writers of Criminal Minds did a pretty good job of explaining what they are asking for.

When a writer sells a script, they don't get $30,000 or whatever it costs. Yes, that is the price, but they don't get that. They get, say $10,000 or $15,000. How do the get the rest? Something call residuals. When they show makes money, they get a piece up to the additional $20K or $15K they are owed. Right now internet and DVD sales are not included in residuals. So if a show tanks on TV, the writers don't see the rest of their money. Now say a show does really well on DVD despite low ratings (See Firefly), the writers don't get any money from that and are jipped the cash they are owed despite the producers raking in the dough and making all their money back and then some.
Reply
Flag
I'm in support of the strike. I wish I was down there in Los Angeles with them.
Reply
Flag
Writers should negotiate one on one with the networks. Strikes like this affect hundreds of thousands of people with no say in the matter. Writers may only work a month or two a year but when they get $30,000 per episode thats a pretty sweet deal. The executives make way too much money, but that between them and the shareholders. Unions sank the manufacturing industry in America, now they are sinking whats left. Its only a matter of time before these writers are outsources and replaced with overseas writers. Writers should be paid based on how good they are. These "everyone in the union" gets the same amount created mediocre sitcoms and recycled drama scripts taken from shows decades ago. I think this is why people have abandoned dramas and sitcoms in favor of unscripted reality TV shows (though I generally dont like reality shows at all) and why such shows are usually at the top of the ratings. Actors negotiate their own deals, let the writers do the same.
Reply
Flag
When I first heard about it I was like "Oh cool, maybe the writers are striking for free speech or something." But now I can see its just about money, like always.

Fudge.
Reply
Flag
One thing that bothers me about this, i would give my left nut to have alot of these peoples jobs, if anything, i'll go scab it up right now and take any of their places (only problem is alot of them are Seth Mcfarlane and the like, and i obviously cant replace talent like that).



My point being though is that i think some people take their station in life for granted when so many others are almost begging just to get the oppurtunity to do it for free (the much maligned internship).
Reply
Flag
I have to say my heart goes out to the crew. These are people who heavily rely on televison productions to put food on the table and are now caught in the middle of this mess. If you ask me both Networks and WGA need to resume talks and both stop being so damn selfish. There is more at stake than their own interests. It takes many people to create and deliver the shows we love and both parties (at the very least) should continue talking, not just for themselves but for the people who are just as vital in making these programs a reality.
Reply
Flag
the networks are clearly all about the money and how much they can make. I wonder it this drags on long enough, if there will be enough of a decrease in viewers (us consumers) that they get impacted. So how about we boycott the new reality shows that are now cropping up to take the place of what we the consumers have lost: the dramas and sitcoms that we want? I almost hope this strike will cause the networks to loose huge...
Reply
Flag
I agree that the producers need to fulfill their contractual duties as producers. They have two jobs and don't mind getting paid for both duties, so they shouldn't mind doing only one. Legally, they haven't a leg to stand on.



I think it's really wrong of the writers to chose to strike now. They knew it would effect the crew. They have calandars. They know that Christmas is next month but they don't care. Have you gone to their websites? They want the shows production to stop as soon as possible. That's why people like what's his face from The Office Steve Carel (sp?) are refusing to work. They don't want to wait for people to run out of scripts. They want production to stop and they knew that would mean the crew would be fired.



They're putting people out of work before Christmas. They're attacking and threatening non Guild members who "cross the picket line" to perform non-writing duties. They're really killing themselves. The studios don't have to do anything to demonize the writers, they're doing it to themselves. Also, notice that writers who post comments refer to anyone who doesn't automatically side with them as studio trolls or plants. So, I'll just say it, I don't have anything to do with studios.



I think the writers should have what they want. I think the studios are ridiculous for refusing to share their enormous profits. However, I think a strike was irresponsible and selfish on the part of the writers and that they're acting like 12 year olds. Bickering, badgering and, overall, being very immature.



The writers aren't the little guy, they're middle management. The crew are the little guy and they're the ones really getting screwed here. Nobody took a vote among them before putting them out of work before Christmas. Maybe Jay Leno, the Writer's Guild and their cohorts will show up at the crews' houses on Christmas day bearing gifts, but I doubt it.



Shut up and get back to the negotiating table before people lose their jobs already! It's almost Christmas!
More+
Reply
Flag
I have to take the side of the studio's in the particular instance. If someone is a writer/producer, it can be assumed that they are a member of the production guild as well as the writer's guild. If they aren't writing, there is no reason what so ever for them to abandon the post production duties. If shows have already been filmed, then there is no reason not to edit them and let them air. The producers are not doing themselves or their shows any favors.
Reply
Flag
Sure. Suing workers for siding with themselves and their co-workers will certainly help improve their public image. As if they weren't in an unreasonable position to begin with, now they're using a collateral effect to sue people? I mean, that could lead to further strikes, to people severing their ties with studios or shows (MacFarlane literally said "he'd be pissed" if something like this happened) and just to generate more chaos.
Reply
Flag
These guys have a valid reason to strike, but that doesn't include disrupting the filming of episodes that are already written and ready for production. I honestly don't know why the police aren't called to relocate or arrest striking writers who choose to go to a closed set which is filming, and disrupt production by making as much noise as they can, to the point of using Bullhorns so that the people who aren't on strike can't perform their jobs. That's disturbing the peace and interfering with the operation of a business, more than ample reason to get the police involved.



The writers can make their point just fine by waiting for the currently written episodes to run out. They don't need to prevent the cast and crew from working, since they aren't a part of the writers' guild.



As for producers who also write, if they belong to the guild which is striking, how does this prevent them from continuing their executive positions? Just don't do any writing. The studios are being made to look like the good guys by comparison to the writers.



I think a lot of mistakes are being made in the way some shows are handling this strike. They could certainly hire freelance writers to take the part of the strikers. Some shows might even improve as a result.



Also, as for shows that plan on filming shorter seasons using the episodes they already have, that's just plain shortsighted. When you only have ten or 15 episodes of a show, people quickly loose interest in seeing reruns for the fourth or fifth time. Over the years, TV has gone from 26 or more episodes a year, to 22 or less.



With shows like Heroes, Lost, Smallville, etc., cutting episodes even further is just begging to get the show cancelled. If you don't want to go with freelance writers, spread out the new episodes, show reruns from previous seasons, and handle the remaining episodes as a midseason replacement, or even air them during the summer. Surely the advertising companies can change when they look for sweeps ratings to accomodate the strike. Or (wow, what a concept), maybe they should actually look at the overall performance of the show instead of just the ratings for the supposedly best episodes.



This doesn't seem like brain surgery when it comes to finding solutions to the strike. Why has everyone given up before the wordprocessors are even turned off? It's just sad.
More+
Reply
Flag
I support the strike because it is worth it in the long run as the studios rake in all the profits while exploiting all those that work hard.
Reply
Flag
well I hope the strike pays off if not they have hurt alot of people for no reason
Reply
Flag
This is rather unfortunate. But oh well, I guess this is how the cookie will crumble. I totally understand where the writers are coming from, yet going on strike hurts everyone. The writers themselves, the networks, and the viewers. This is becoming a lose-lose situation for everyone.
Reply
Flag
this whole thing sucks! the show runners can at least finish written episodes so that people that work below the line can still get some work for a few more weeks. its just total bs. i could be laid off within the next month if ths continues.
Reply
Flag
Well if it is time to start watching less TV and start doing other activities, so be it. I will not allow other people to control my life and have me get all upset because of their choices. I have enough situations going on in my own life to think about, without worrying about their personal problems. When one door closes another one opens. So many more possibilities in my future now with less TV.
Reply
Flag
Striking is never worth it.
Reply
Flag
Marvinhood: These showrunners/creators didn't go into the business to make Mr. Average TV Viewer "happy". They did it in order to make a living and provide for their families. Which isn't easy, when you're dealing with studios & suits.

Speaking of which--sure seem to be a lot of studio-friendly plants around here...
Reply
Flag
For those of you who support the writers, check this out.



http://www.fans4writers.com



Spread the word! If the studios don't have writers or viewers then they have no power. The execs need to learn who is "really" responsible for all that money they make. That would be us, the fans/consumers.
Reply
Flag
So they lay off an entire crew of a show... eventually these writers will come back to work... what are they going to do then, have to go through and find new competent people to do these jobs.

The whole thing is stupid. If the writers are not happy then they should just quit and get jobs that they are satisfied with.
Reply
Flag
Does not make any difference since Jay´s monologue stinks anyway
Reply
Flag
if you dont have good writing you dont have a good show. I just hope this is all resolved soon so I can get back to enjoying all my favorite shows
Reply
Flag
Well, in this case I don't blame the networks. People who are writers and producers at the same time basically have two jobs. They can't neglect the one for the other. When you repeatedly don't show up for work, you get kicked out.
Reply
Flag
I love TV like everyone else writing but I do recognize that without the writers I would have nothing to love. It's because of great writing that the shows are worth tuning to every week they air. Yeah, I get it, everybody is suffering here---everyone! However, it seems after going over the entire issues from every angle, the writers are right. These billion dollar corporations could hold the jobs longer but are just playing a dirty trick to force the Strikers. The first to cave in this mess should be the corporations. Even if I have to live without Chuck and Bones, for awhile...
Reply
Flag
Man they weren't kidding when they said once this strike got under way things would get ugly quickly. And it hasn't even been a full week yet!
Reply
Flag
I'm upset I won't get to see my favorite shows but I fully support the strike. it is outrageous that the companies are now starting to sack staff!!! people have a right to unionise and to strike, and should not be punished for it!!! The production companies make huge amounts of cash with these programs, they are just showing how greedy they are. I think us, the viewers, should boycott as well. Even though I love the shows I will not watch them (new or rerun) until the companies show some respect for their staff!
Reply
Flag
I wonder how many good shows are going to get knocked off because of all this???
Reply
Flag
should be interesting how this one plays out
Reply
Flag
zarkon72, try this one: http://galacticabbs.com/index.php?showtopic=2186
Reply
Flag
strike is always dirty business but sometime its needed,

In this case i don´t really know why the writers guild is calling for strikes anyone got any links for it?
Reply
Flag
This is absolutely outrageous!!!! I mean when will they ever going to be back to work?? I'm from New Zealand and I love watching tv programmes that are not only made in New Zealand, but in any other country!!!! I'm just scared that I'm going to watch more reruns (never mind BONES because one of the shows here in NZ didn't impress us that much) but still, I'm starting to worry!!!!:(:(
Reply
Flag
Well, there is always Netflix... I have some great BBC shows in my queue. They should last me through the strike.
Reply
Flag
I'm concerned about the crew members being laid off. If the strike gets settled soon, will their jobs still be waiting for them, or should they start looking for other work right away? It seems like a lot of people are in limbo right now. It's difficult when your employment situation is uncertain.
Reply
Flag
This is becoming a big mess...
Reply
Flag
networks should be ashamed of themselves. I'm glad the stars of the shows and hosts of talk shows are out there as well; maybe this will show the networks that they're not all that special without hosts to host shows, actors to act in shows and writers to write the shows so the hosts can host and actors can act and us viewers can see and enjoy the shows.
Reply
Flag
All I know is that if someone walked off my job for five days there is no way I'd take them back... I sympathize with the writers but get real, of course the execs are going to get tough, they always do when big money is on the line. If the studios didn't do something like this then they would be dealing from a point of weakness and thats a just bad negotiating strategy... Hit them hard and fast, knock the wind out of them then go to the table.
Reply
Flag
I agree with what the writers want but is it worth the consequences? People are losing their jobs and shows are going off...ugh...this sucks. And it's only been what, a week? Is that the networks big defense against the writers is to skip the small steps and start getting down to real buisness? So, I've waited all summer long for my shows to come back on only to have them start going off because of a damn strike.
Reply
Flag
Load More Comments

Like TV.com on Facebook