Another Writers' Strike? (CBS) Why No One Has Sympathy

Content creators everywhere are mad and not going to take it anymore.  Well-compensated TV writers want in on online video revenue, or else… (Well, that’s the part they haven’t quite worked out yet.)  And now CBS news writers and producers are so annoyed about CBS’s plan to combine two newsrooms and pay radio people less than TV people that they’re about to follow their Hollywood brethren into the streets (NYT, blurb below). 

It’s a free country, and TV writers should probably get a cut of online revenue*, but here are a few reasons the writers’ strikes haven’t engendered much sympathy:

  • Employed TV writers and producers already make decent money.
  • Those who choose to go into the writing and producing business are usually intelligent, well-educated folks who could have chosen (and still could choose) to go into a better paid business with higher barriers to entry.  (i.e., this isn’t a case of oppressive owners exploiting people who have no other options).
  • The traditional TV and radio businesses are under pressure: It’s hard to pump more water from drying wells (especially when online competitors don’t have to worry about strikes).
  • In the case of the threatened news strike, reasonable observers wonder why, when most other manufacturing businesses have to close plant after plant to survive, CBS shouldn’t be allowed to do the same. 
  • Weak logic: Why, exactly, shouldn’t radio people make less money than TV people?  Right now, TV’s a better business than radio.  Our economy is the envy of the world because it encourages the free flow of resources out of dying industries into burgeoning ones–not because it guarantees everyone a sinecure.
  • Reruns are good, too.

*I say “probably” because the whole royalty system need not be written in stone.  Lots of folks would presumably be eager to get paid $200,000 a year to write for TV without ever getting a single dime of future royalties.  The current revenue-sharing plan is probably good for aligning incentives (make sure the writers want to help create great shows), but it’s not necessarily the only comp scheme that would work).

See Also:
Striking Hollywood Writers Digging Own Grave
Hollywood Writers Web-Bound? Don’t Quit Your Day Jobs
Eisner: Striking Writers are Stupid

NYT CBS Strike Summary:

With one writers’ strike already under way, CBS will face the prospect of a second one when news writers, producers, editors and artists take a strike authorization vote tomorrow and Friday.

Any strike could affect news programs on the CBS network and local television and radio stations. The chief issues involve CBS’s desire to create a pay system that would provide smaller raises for radio workers than television workers and the possibility of combining some newsroom operations. For example, CBS, which owns both the WCBS and WINS radio stations in New York, might be able to merge the work staffs, according to Sherry Goldman, a spokeswoman for the Writers Guild of America, which represents the employees.

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