Over the past four weeks, my life has been dominated by labour action – on October 15th, the faculty at Acadia University (Which I attend) went on strike. This strike did not end until Wednesday, which meant three and a half weeks out of the classroom. In covering that strike, I maintained a neutral perspective: I felt the profs were striking for sound principles, but that the administration could never simply accept their demands thanks to shrinking enrollment. The landscape of the university was changing, and this crossroads was only inevitable. In the end, our second strike in 4 years was settled, this time with a resolution that should maintain the security of the institution for over a decade.
I mention all of this because I am not neutral about the recent Writer’s strike that has threatened the state of this year’s television season. If Acadia’s administration were facing dwindling enrollment and a grave financial position, Studios are facing a boon in the form of the ability to distribute content over the internet. Hollywood stands at a content-distribution crossroads, and the idea that the internet is “too young” to enter into contract negotiations is ludicrous. New Media is here, there’s no doubt about it, and something needs to be done to respect the work of writers within this medium.
In my time working with fans of CBS’ Jericho, the way many fans caught onto the show was through watching episodes online through the network’s Innertube service. In some cases, it was the only way they watched the show as they were unable to watch the series live thanks to other commitments. The idea that the writers of that episode, the individuals responsible for crafting those words, get nothing for every time someone watches it through this medium makes me wonder whether the service is really assisting the state of television in the long run. Because it should be: there lies amazing potential within the internet, but if it is being realized to the detriment of the writers I believe its value is primarily lost.
I won’t attempt to know everything about this issue, but I know that the work of writers is important. As I have matured as a television viewer, I’ve become tuned in to the writers of my favourite television programs. I watch those credits now, often rewinding if I miss the writer, and I place a great deal of value on that name. I have no idea what resolution will be fair, but I know that there has to be one: there is no way that the studios can continue to operate in such a fashion that ignores the future of this medium and the role that writers will play in it.
The studios aren’t evil in this situation, and part of me can’t blame them for hoping that they are able to strike a deal like the home video one that has writers earning pennies to the dollar on the millions of TV DVD sales. But with every single network and production studio developing new ways to reach the internet consumers, there is no feigning ignorance to the role this is going to play. Their actions contradict their words, and eventually that fact will lead to a resolution.
I really don’t plan on covering the strike in an overly large amount of detail, mostly out of hope that it will soon be resolved and the writers can return to crafting the shows I love. I will continue to watch those shows until they run dry, and I hope that everyone else will do the same: no matter what we think of either side in this conflict, this medium we’re addicted to is still worth our time and effort. Let us hope, for the future of that medium, that the writers return to work with a fair deal in the near future.
For now, consider this lowly television blogger in full support of the Writer’s Guild of America and the future of television.