Sunday 11 November 2007

Scratching the suface of the WGA strike...

So the WGA (Writers Guild of America) has gone on strike. So what, a lot of you ask? I don't live in America... it doesn't affect me. Oh, but it does.

Everything that is produced in America is written by members of the WGA. That is TV and movies. Big movie projects are being pushed into accelerated production or shelved altogether until the strike is resolved. Far more disrupting for most of us though is the TV. Think about it... how many of your favourite TV shows come from the US? If you're anything like this household the ratio is about 95%. Lost... Prison Break... 24... Atlantis... the list goes on and on. Very few shows have finished shooting their current seasons... a fair few are not even half way through. Most shows only have a few un-shot episodes before they are out of scripts. What happens then? Some shows go on hiatus... some shows have alarming 'contingency' plans to bring their seasons to a premature close. For us here in the UK... even worse. Who knows if the January starts of shows such as Lost and 24 will still happen if a full season isn't available. Maybe the TV companies will just wait until the strike is over to begin airing. Whatever happens transmission in the UK will be affected as due to the wonders of modern technology we are only ever a few episodes behind the US in terms of viewing (except when some Channels which shall remain nameless decide to 'sit' on the shows for a more auspicious (or something) starting time). Rumour has it that the shows had been looking abroad for substitutes to fill in during the strike, the obvious choice being the UK (seeing as how we speak the same language and all). The WGGB (Writers Guild of Great Britain) has however called on it's members to support their American colleagues... so not much hope down this avenue.

Last time the WGA went on strike (in 1988) it lasted for 22 weeks... so I guess we all need to be prepared for re-runs and reality TV, and over here in the UK some quality British TV (?!).

So, as usual, when anyone anywhere goes on strike... the question that not a lot of people know the answer to is "why are they on strike?". Well... firstly because their contract expired, the difficulty arose in negotiating a new one. The contention lies, apparently, with 'residuals'. As far as I can understand this is to do with monies paid for airing of the shows on mediums other than TV. DVDs for examples, internet broadcasts (including when TV companies use clips streamed on their websites) and so on and so forth. The problem appears to be that if the WGA are given more money for residuals then this has to be extended to the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild. Doesn't seem very likely, does it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't agree with striking. I do not see what it achieves. If there was any public sympathy for whatever cause the strikers are striking over it is pretty quickly eroded once the effects are felt by the general public. Take the recent postal strikes in this country. Public sympathy reached absolute rock bottom by the time the strikers eventually went back to work. A key here may be that a lot of us work in jobs where there are no unions and no calls to go on strike... we simply cannot emphasise with the culture.

If you are concerned about the fate of your favourite shows (yes, it is amazing how much TV we watch and how it dominates our lives!) Digital Spy have an excellent page where you can get all the latest news.