The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has gone on strike in protest against low wages and poor royalties throughout the film and television industries, which they say has made it nearly impossible for writers to make a living. In particular, they complain about a lack of royalties for “new media” such as streaming shows and movies, which they say they make almost no money from. In addition, there is increased suspicion towards the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a replacement for writers and other artists, which they say may be used to devalue their work.
What is the WGA?
The Writers Guild of America is a union that represents professional writers in a wide variety of media, including television, movies, news media, and digital content. It is composed of two associated organizations, WGA West and WGA East, the former of which is headquartered out of Los Angeles, CA, and the latter of which is headquartered in New York City, NY. Combined, they represent approximately 25,000 professional writers across all forms of media.
Why Are the WGA on Strike?
The WGA has gone on strike over conflict with media companies that have, according to them, refused to give adequate pay to writers for the work they have done. In particular, writers have seen a major decline in their income due to loopholes in standard WGA contracts that mean they do not receive royalties from media streamed online over services like Netflix or Hulu. Media companies have made a massive amount of money from online streaming as a result, but writers have seen no increase in their paychecks to reflect that success.
Why Are Companies Refusing to Give Concessions?
Media companies, on the whole, have refused to grant any concessions to the WGA because the current arrangement works very well for them. As streaming has become more important for media of all types, the inability of writers to collect royalties means that the bulk of the profits goes to the media companies, not the writers. In addition, some companies believe they can rely on alternative sources of content, such as AI writing tools, to substitute for the work of professional writers.
What Are the Effects of This Strike?
The result of this strike is that many planned or ongoing media projects have been brought to a halt. TV shows and movies that were in production have stopped, and some live shows (such as late-night comedy shows) have gone on hiatus in light of the strike. Some writers, particularly showrunners, have been pressured to cross the picket line, but thus far, there have been no takers for these offers.
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