The Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike on Tuesday, 2 May to have their voices heard. After being in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for six weeks, the WGA announced that its members were "quitting their jobs".
The union represents some 11,500 people who write for the TV shows and films we love at home and in the theaters. Their protest leads to a production halt not seen since the last strike in 2007-2008.
So why is WGA conspicuous? There are many reasons, but one of them has to do with leftovers in the face of streaming services. An author receives money every time an episode he has written is re-aired on television. For those with shows in syndication like Friends, this can mean significant income. But on on-demand services like Hulu and Netflix, no matter how many times an episode can be watched, the residual value of the show is much less. That makes it untenable for writers.
The WGA revealed in a statement, “Driven in large part by the shift to streaming, writers are finding their work devalued in every part of the business. While company profits have remained high and spending on content has grown, writers are falling behind. The companies have used the transition to streaming to cut writer pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels. ”
The industry is also struggling with the proliferation of AI and how this technology can be used to create scenarios. The WGA seeks protection against the use of artificial intelligence in relation to written materials. "Right now, I think we have a pretty simple philosophy: AI can't be literary material," said Chris Keizer, co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee. "This can't be a draft that we have to rewrite. This doesn't mean companies won't use it in some way. It can be research material, but not literary material. I'll put it this way: Nobody really knows what AI will look like, but the fact that companies aren't talking about it is the best indicator that we have reason to be wary of it.”