Discovery CEO Gets “Survival Kit” From Non-Fiction Producers

NEW YORK, NY (AUGUST 24, 2015) – Union representatives delivered a “Non-Fiction Producers’ Survival Kit” to Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav to mark the enormous contrast between his generous $156 million pay package and the extremely difficult conditions endured by the men and women who make shows for his television networks at production companies like Original Media.

The “Non-Fiction Producer’s Survival Kit” fruit basket was delivered to David Zaslav’s Central Park West apartment and accepted by his doorman. The “Survival Kit” included:

  • 1 can of Red Bull (for those long days without overtime pay)
  • 1 bottle of Dayquil (for when you’re sick, but don’t receive sick days)
  • The Want Ads (for that second job needed to survive on low wages)
  • 1 box of Band Aids (for unsafe work conditions)
  • A Credit Card Application (to cover production company expenses when in the field)
  • 1 book: NY on $5 A Day (for survival as a non-fiction producer)
  • 1 non-denominational Prayer Book  (in place of health insurance)

The unionized workers at Original Media, which produces hit non-fiction shows for Discovery Communications like DUAL SURVIVAL and INK MASTER, are currently fighting management for a fair contract. The WGAE has filed unfair labor practice charges against Original Media for failing and refusing to bargain in good faith, failing to share its sexual harassment policy and other critical information.  In addition to the federal government’s investigation of those charges, Original employees have sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime.

The fruit basket included a letter from 70 non-fiction producers and APs from across the industry, including a number of producers from Original Media, who wrote, “Congratulations! We’ve read the NY Times article announcing your annual compensation of $156 million, which positions you as the highest paid CEO of an American public company. That’s an impressive achievement.

“We’re proud that Discovery, under your leadership, has become one of the most successful television conglomerates in the country. The Discovery Channel, Investigation Discovery (ID), Discovery Travel, TLC, Animal Planet, American Heroes, OWN and many other brands under the company’s umbrella are now among the most viewed networks on cable.

“Discovery has perfected the business model of distributing high quality, non-fiction programming that’s extremely profitable. As you know, this is accomplished by outsourcing production to independent production companies. As the writers, producers, and directors who work for these production houses and create your programming, we’re equally proud to be key to Discovery’s—and your—success.

“That success, however, comes at a cost—and we bear it. By and large, these production companies pay low wages (i.e., $800/week for Associate Producers), offer no overtime, provide no health insurance or sick days, and often require us to produce and shoot your shows under dangerous working conditions. While these practices keep production costs down and profits up, they are also unjust, un-American, and often illegal.

“Mr. Zaslav, you’ve made a lot of smart choices that have catapulted you and Discovery to the summit of success. Now you have the means to transform an industry that rests on profits created by unfair labor practices into one of which you, Discovery’s shareholders, and all of the creative talent that are looking to you for leadership can be proud.

“In New York, a large and growing number of producers are working with the Writers Guild of America East in an attempt to bring healthy and equitable employment standards to our industry. We have had a number of successes but we have much work to do. And even among the companies that we have organized, some of them like ITV and Original Media, have refused to come to fair agreements at the bargaining table. We urge you to work with us and help align the city’s non-fiction production houses with practices that befit the vendors of an esteemed company like Discovery.

“By choosing to do future business with production companies that maintain the healthy employment standards we all deserve, you’ll make a necessary, positive difference in the lives of the thousands of people who create your programming.

“We welcome an opportunity to meet with you and further discuss our needs and campaign.”

ABOUT WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.

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