WGAE, WGAW Ratify New Collective-Bargaining Agreement with CBS News

The Writers Guild of America, East and the Writers Guild of America, West have negotiated a new three-year agreement with CBS News … Click here to read more.

The Future of Broadcast News: What WGAE Members Say

More than 175 members of the WGAE in the “staff” (that is, news) category answered a Guild questionnaire about trends in broadcast news. We want to engage in a conversation with Guild members about the future, how it will affect members and what the union should be doing about it.

Although most members who answered the questionnaire believe their employers will remain in the business for quite some time, most also think audiences for broadcast news will shrink, and that more and more material will be distributed on the Internet, including material that won’t be broadcast via TV or radio at all….Click here to continue reading…

WGAE Statement on the House Appropriation Commitee’s proposal to eliminate all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) issued this statement today regarding the House Appropriation Committee’s proposal to eliminate all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB):

“The Writers Guild of America, East opposes renewed efforts by members of the House Appropriations Committee to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Federal funding is critical to support quality programming like Sesame Street and Frontline and important institutions like PBS and NPR. Public broadcasting provides more than 21,000 jobs, including jobs for writers. No one wants to read the headline, “Congress to Big Bird: ‘Drop Dead.’”The WGAE continues to urge our members and others to tell Congress to save public broadcasting. Our voices, raised in an online campaign launched today, must be heard. Congress Must Save PBS.”   The Writers Guild of America, East is part of a broad coalition of organizations in this effort to save public broadcasting. The coalition includes AFTRA, IATSE, NABET-CWA, and Free Press.

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level.  For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org.

WRITER GUILD OF AMERICA- CBS NEWS EMPLOYEES RATIFY NEW CONTRACT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 11, 2010 NEW YORK CITY and LOS ANGELES  –  Members of the Writers Guilds of America, East and West (WGAE and WGAW) employed at CBS News have ratified their new collective bargaining agreement soundly. The vote was: 83 % yes; 17% no. The three-year contract covers newswriters, writer/producers, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists,  and promotion writers working in television and radio on the national and local levels in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

The contract, which runs from April 2, 2010 through April 6, 2013, provides solid economic support for members. CBS News staff employees will now be eligible for the Writers Guild pension fund, and the Guilds negotiated minimums for writer-producers for the first time. The contract also establishes minimum representation percentages at local television shops for the first time, guaranteeing the Guilds have a meaningful presence at CBS News as the broadcast news business continues to transform.

In an era where non-guild employees face wage freezes, contract salary rates will actually increase 2% in January 2011 and another 2% in April 2012 under the new Guild contract. Freelance/per diem employees will receive two additional 1% increases over the contract term.

“We achieved our main goals of ensuring that the Guilds and our members have a solid future at CBS News and also realize economic gains. Getting members into the Guild pension plan is a major advance, and we are pleased to also get wage increases for our members,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East.

“In these difficult economic times, and with the news business in such a period of serious change, we are pleased that our unions have successfully negotiated and voted approval of a new contract with CBS News. All credit and thanks to the hardworking, committed members of the negotiating committee and the staffs of the Guilds East and West," said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

“We want to thank the members of the negotiating committee for the countless hours of work they put into this effort. Their dedication helps keep our unions strong,” said John Wells, president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

The Writers Guild of America, East and the Writers Guild of America, West are labor unions representing writers in motion pictures, broadcast, cable, news and digital media. The WGAE and WGAW are active in legislative activities on the state, federal, and international levels with a special focus on globalization, labor, communications, and copyrights. They also conduct a number of programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of writers.

For more information about the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org. For more information about the Writers Guild of America, West, visit: www.wga.org.                                                                                         ###

WGAE Meets with FCC Commissioner Copps

On Friday, December 3, a WGAE contingent met with Michael Copps, one of the five members of the Federal Communications Commission.  We discussed the consolidation of ownership of media companies, the downward financial pressures on broadcast news, and Net Neutrality.

Commissioner Copps has been a stalwart and articulate supporter of the rights of communities and creators in an environment dominated by powerful communications companies.  Read his most recent remarks here [PDF].

Representing the WGAE were President Michael Winship, Executive Director Lowell Peterson, Director of Communications Elana Levin, Director of Organizing Justin Molito, and Business Agent Geoff Betts.

WBBM Web News Writers Vote For WGAE Representation

NEW YORK CITY — In a first for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), web news writer/producers at  Chicago CBS station WBBM voted unanimously to be represented by the Writers Guild, East on August 26th.  These are the first news writer/producers working exclusively on web content to join the WGAE, the union that has long represented CBS News employees writing for television and radio.

 “This victory for web writers demonstrates that even in the digital age writers want the strength union representation provides. The news industry is shifting to digital platforms and their decision to join us helps ensure that writing and producing news continues to be a good job into the 21st Century,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson.

WBBM web writer Michael Ramsey said, “We voted to join the Guild because we want the stability and voice on the job that a union provides.  We are proud to be the first web news writers and web producers to join the Guild, but I’m sure we won’t be the last. Web writers and producers may work in a different medium than the writers the Guild traditionally represents, but our needs are essentially the same. WBBM previously indicated they would negotiate with us in good faith if we chose to organize, and we are looking forward to sitting down with management to negotiate an initial contract.”

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level.  For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org.###

Comments Before the Federal Communications Commission on its Regulatory Review of Broadcast Ownership Rules

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (the “WGAE”) represents thousands of members who write for film, television, radio, and digital media.  Our members work for major and independent studios, for the major television and radio networks and stations, and for public television, where they write, produce, edit, and create graphics for news and public affairs shows and for entertainment and comedy programs.  Their material is broadcast over the airwaves, distributed on cable television, shown in theaters, and posted on the Internet.

Our members see first-hand what happens when too few entities control too much of what the American public watches and listens to, both in the entertainment realm and in news.  Democracy depends on the vibrant exchange of ideas; on information presented in coherent, meaningful ways; on independent thought which is not tailored for commercial advantage.  Consolidation of ownership and power in the media removes these vital elements from the marketplace.  

The Effect of Media Consolidation on News QualityAs fewer entities create news programming for broadcast or cable television or for the Internet, this means less diversity of news content.  By definition, fewer points of view are presented.  Fewer stories are selected to be followed up in depth and fewer resources are deployed to investigate those stories.  Instead of a town square where ideas flow freely, the news business becomes more like a shopping mall dominated by a small number of megastores.  This thwarts the public’s interest in robust, well-informed discussion of the critical issues of our times.

One way to counteract this trend would be a significant increase in federal funding of public affairs programming on public television.  This approach would recognize the economic pressures placed on all news-gathering organizations by declining advertising revenues, and it would permit content creators greater latitude to pursue stories for their intrinsic news value rather than their ability to grab eyeballs and thereby drive profit margins.  This concept – more public funding for news and public affairs programming – might seem tangential to a review of media ownership rules, but there can be a link based on public policy: if media conglomerates insist on being permitted to consolidate their hold on the media marketplace, in exchange they can be required to contribute assets to public programming.  This would counterbalance the tendency of consolidation to deprive the American people of diverse content and high-quality news and public affairs shows.

Also, the Commission should prohibit further consolidation of ownership – or of operation – of news broadcasters.  When a significant amount of the field reporting and writing about important news stories is shared by the major television or radio stations in a given market, and then distributed by those stations, this radically reduces the amount of actual journalism being performed and profoundly undermines the quality of broadcast news.    The Effect of Consolidation on Entertainment and Other ContentThe WGAE believes that diverse entertainment content is also important to the public.  To a large extent, the identity and progress of a society is related to the quality and number of stories the society tells itself.  We build our identities in part through the dramas and comedies we watch.  This is particularly clear in the realm of racial and ethnic diversity; for example, there is a broad consensus that more television programs and films should tell the stories of people of color.

In the NOI the Commission asks for ideas about how to use consumer preference to analyze diversity of content.  We suggest that the Commission pay close attention to niche audiences.  In a media marketplace as vast as the United States, it is easy to overlook the fact that audiences as relatively small as 5 or 10 percent of the overall market still encompass millions of people.  If media are owned by smaller and smaller numbers of larger and larger conglomerates, the tendency is to sell to the mean – that is, to create programming that aggregates the largest audiences.  This ignores the importance of programs that address the needs of smaller segments of the population.Convergence of Television and Internet Service ProvidersThere is no question that distinctions between broadcast and other forms of distribution – in particular, the Internet – will become less and less important in coming years.  As a result, we believe it should also inspire the FCC to think more broadly about the scope of the media consolidation rules.  Although the Internet is generally described as a wide-open highway, in fact most Americans pay a lot of money to get access.  Regulators have long recognized the power of companies that own broadcast licenses.  Less attention has been paid to the power of companies that control access to the Internet – the Internet Service Providers.  Increasingly, the same company that provides consumer access to the Internet also provides access to television; that is, the ISP is also the cable company.  This convergence has enormous implications.  Consolidation is now taking place, not only within one segment of the market (e.g., television distribution outlets), but across segments (television and Internet).  Indeed, as the proposed joint venture between Comcast and NBC Universal demonstrates, this convergence potentially places control of three central elements of the media market into the hands of a small number of corporate entities:  distribution of television programming by cable; access to the Internet; and content production.  The WGAE respectfully suggests that the Commission adapt its analytical framework to take into account this profound structural change in the media marketplace.

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Review of MB Docket No. 09-182The Commission’s Broadcast Ownership Rules andOther Rules AdoptedPursuant to Section 202 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996

WGAE talks with FCC Chair about film, piracy and the future of journalism

Michael Winship led a Q&A with Chairman Julius Genachowski at the Silverdocs Festival. The Chairman said “The most important thing we can do with this new medium … is to make sure … the Internet is open for content creators…" Read more here.

WGAE-ABC News Employees Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract

NEW YORK CITY – ABC News employees represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE), have ratified their new contract agreement overwhelmingly. The vote was: 89% yes; 11% no. The three-year contract is effective immediately and affects newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists and researchers in national and local television and radio in New York and Washington, D.C.

Under the terms of the agreement, which were announced on April 9, WGAE-ABC employees will receive wage increases of at least 2% per year in each year of the contract. The first increase will be retroactive to April 12, 2010. In addition, for the first time, the contract provides a substantial minimum salary and enhanced severance package for writers who produce shows for WABC-TV, as well as a training stipend for WABC-TV newswriters if any are laid off because of a change in the seniority list (no such layoffs are in the works). Several other payments to members, including the promo/continuity availability fee and acting editor fee, have been increased. In addition, the WGAE gave ABC greater flexibility in work assignments in return for improved job security protections for any members who might be affected.

“We are happy to have secured a contract for that provides our members with wage increases and innovative job protections and happy they have overwhelmingly ratified this contract,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East. “Our members’ ratification of this contract ensures that they will remain integral to ABC News’ success as the broadcast news business transforms in the coming years.”

"News and information delivered with accuracy and perspective have never been more vital to the survival of our democracy. With that as an underlying principle, our negotiating committee worked diligently on behalf of their fellow members at ABC News. Collaborating with our executive director Lowell Peterson and the Guild East staff, their perseverance and knowledge achieved a contract that protects the membership, recognizes our ABC News members’ proven value and skills and upholds the principles of journalism that are so challenged in the current media landscape," said Michael Winship, WGAE president.

ABC News employees also have expressed their support of this contract publicly. “At a time of great uncertainty for our industry, I believe this contract represents an important step toward insuring that WGA-represented writers will continue to have a significant role in broadcasting’s future, at both the local and network levels,” said Al Wasser, writer for World News with Diane Sawyer and former head writer for Good Morning America.

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org.

WGAE Reaches Tentative Contract Agreement with ABC for Newswriters

NEW YORK CITY  – The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) and ABC, Inc. have reached tentative agreement on a new contract for the WGAE-ABC news employees. The agreement, which was recommended by the WGAE-ABC Negotiating Committee, is subject to approval by the WGAE Council and a ratification vote by members covered by the contract. Approximately 250 newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists and researchers in national and local television and radio in New York and Washington, D.C are affected. “The tentative agreement achieves our goals of protecting our members’ economic interests and ensuring that the Guild and its members remain central to the company’s operation as the broadcast news business is transformed in coming years,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East. “Given the depressed state of the international economy in general and the difficulties in broadcast news in particular, we are pleased this contract gives our members a wage increase and provides job protections.”Under the terms of the tentative agreement, WGAE-ABC employees would receive wage increases of at least 2% per year in each year of the contract. The first increase would take place on April 12, 2010. In addition, for the first time, the contract provides a substantial minimum salary and enhancedseverance package for writers who produce shows for WABC-TV, as well as a training stipend for any WABC-TV newswriters who may be laid-off as a result of a change in the seniority list. Several other payments to members, including the promo/continuity availability fee and acting editor fee, would be increased by the new contract. In reaching the agreement, the WGAE also agreed to ABC’s requests for greater flexibility in work assignments, but improved job security protections for any members who might be affected. “The contract takes into consideration the direction the industry is headed because of technology and economics, and recognizes that our members are particularly well suited to thrive in this environment. They know how to structure and present news in a reliable, compelling way, and they have welcomed the opportunity to broaden their skills and knowledge. We look forward to working with ABC in this new era,” added Peterson. "I want to thank our Executive Director Lowell Peterson, the Guild staff who worked so hard on the negotiation and especially the Guild’s members at ABC who served on the negotiating committee and were so diligent, informed and committed on behalf of their colleagues. I urge our ABC members to vote in favor of this tentative agreement," said Michael Winship, WGAE president.       The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level.