Weighing In: Writer’s Strike
by Nick West


Was anyone else missing Stephen Colbert as much as I was? My late nights that were formerly filled with satirical, wry humor from the world’s most unabashed patriot were soon brimming with episodes that I had already experienced and enjoyed with my fellow Colbert Nation cohorts months before. This lack of laughs can be attributed solely to the much-ballyhooed Writers Guild of America strike.

The strike began when writers began renegotiating their contracts with the large movie studios in order to try to advance the position they have been in since 1960. The large movie conglomerates have been rolling in profits since the advent of home video, when they began to pull profits on movies in theaters as well as VHS/Beta. At the time, writers were told that home video was an untested medium and that they could not be cut into the profits from the formats until they were proven to be a viable source of income. This was grudgingly agreed upon and the issue was put off until now.

The strike began over Internet content and writer’s request to be paid residuals on digital content sold over iTunes and other video services. Studios are telling the writers the same thing they did when home video was around, that digital entertainment is unproven and that residuals shouldn’t be paid if the studios don’t make money themselves. While this line is sold to the writers, the corporate executives have given their investors exponential quotes of their financial future.

Executives have said, “Viacom will double its revenue this year from digital,” said Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom. Les Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS, has said, “Perhaps CSI will be on the network and it will also be on broadband. At some point instead of 27 million people watching it 20 million will watch it and 5 million will watch it on the Internet. But we will get paid for it regardless… We as the network, as the studio, as the producers and production companies, we will get paid no matter where you get it from,” according to the writer’s guild website.

The bottom line is that movie studios are making a large amount of money on their content and the creators of that content are entitled to a larger slice of the pie. The studios would have you believe that there’s no way that they could cut residuals from their profits for the writers, but this is ridiculous. If TV content is residual-friendly, why is Internet content, which operates in much the same way, unable to be broken down according to the studios?

The truth of the matter is that writers have been stepped on. While shows like Colbert Report and Late Night with Conan O’Brien are beginning to return to the air, there is a feeling of unease while watching the show. Watching Colbert soldier on without any writers is almost sad, and knowing that his writers are outside the studio the entire time protesting what he is doing, makes it hard to watch. Plus, Conan’s beard is kinda creepy, and he needs to shave that thing as soon as possible. In order for that to happen, everyone needs to sit down like adults and reason it out so that our favorite shows can return to the small screen with their full manpower behind them.