Creative writers deserve better

Tatihn Mellieon, Staff Writer

Early Tuesday morning, TV and movie writers in the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began striking against major studios, such as Netflix, Paramount and HBO Max. Before the strike began, a vote on April 18th amongst union members received 97.85% in favor of picketing. But where’d this seemingly random strike come from? Well, it tracks back to 2007.

In ‘07, writers in Hollywood went on strike over the lack of compensation for their work. During the hundred-day strike, Hollywood lost an estimated $2.1 billion, and it ultimately resulted in major studios conceding to the demands of the WGA.

The previous strike, and this year’s, are over contracts, specifically the Minimum Basic Agreement, or MBA. In simple terms, the MBA established the minimum wage for TV and movie writers. However, these terms do not apply to streaming services, which in recent years have skyrocketed in both viewership and profits, and for some studios are now the main source of income. In the time since the 2007 strike, the amount of writers who only make the lowest MBA amount rose from 33% to an astounding 49%. Just to drive the point home, that means half of writers are making the absolute minimum wage.

Not only this, but the WGA demands that AI such as ChatGPT be used only as a research tool rather than replacement for writers, a concern that has only grown since the popularization of such technology.

The major studios, represented by an entity known as the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), rejected the WGA’s initial demands, citing that profits were not reflective of what the WGA were asking for. The WGA’s proposed yield for writers is $429 million a year, whereas AMPTP only offered a lowly $86 million.

And so, a question arises; are the studios telling the truth? Of course they’re not. In 2000, studios like Disney, Comcast, Paramount and Fox made a collective $5 billion. In 2021, they made a collective $28 billion, a five times increase. That’s not all either, as projected profits from subscriptions to streaming services lay around $13 billion, meaning that these studios are nothing but in the green.

Given this, a new, even more obvious, question comes to mind; where are the profits going? This is just as simple to answer as the previous question; the people who own these studios and the shareholders.

And none of this has even touched on the workload writers have to keep up with. For writers of late-night talk shows, scripts are required daily, leading to overtime and exhaustion. For show writers, they’re beholden to viewership and acclaim, meaning that the cancellation of a show can leave a team of writers with no job. 

All this to say, writers deserve better. Entertainment is one of the biggest industries and exports in the U.S., and it’s preposterous that these multi-billion dollar studios can’t even cough up livable wages for the people who make their content. If you’re not with the writers, then that probably says a lot about you.