Lion TV, Optomen Productions Sign Collective-Bargaining Agreements with WGAE

In first-of-their-kind agreements for the non-fiction television industry, the Writers Guild of America, East has negotiated collective bargaining agreements with two major reality and documentary television production companies, Lion Television and Optomen Productions. The contracts secured after more than a year of negotiations between representatives at Lion, Optomen and WGAE are effective immediately.Click here to continue reading…

101 Best-Written TV Series

From its beginnings in the 1940s through present day, American television has been shaped by the words and stories of writers. In recognition of the role of writing in sustaining this extraordinary medium, the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are launching 101 Best Written TV Series, the WGA’s list of outstanding television writing. Writers will be able to vote for their choices beginning on May 15, and results will be announced in the fall.

The “101 TV” list will celebrate the craft of television writing over seven decades and follows the WGA’s 101 Greatest Screenplays list announced in 2006. In casting their votes for “best written,” Guild members will have a broad and dynamic field to choose from – any series that aired from the early years of television through the present, on broadcast, basic or pay cable.Click here to continue reading…

PBS Brings ‘POV’ and ‘Independent Lens’ Back to Primetime

WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson and President Michael Winship released the following statement:

“With the news that the series POV and Independent Lens will move in late October to a prime spot on the PBS schedule—Monday nights at 10—we are pleased that PBS has decided to restore independent documentaries to an airtime in its national core schedule. As the Writers Guild of America, East said when it joined in protesting the schedule change in April, the move announced today will allow the greatest exposure and best opportunity for viewers to see these important works so relevant to the PBS mandate for diversity and public service. We are especially grateful for the open minds and willingness to negotiate at PBS that allowed this decision to take place and congratulate the independent film community for the solidarity and sense of purpose that resulted in such a successful outcome.”

WGAE to PBS: Reverse Decision to Move “Independent Lens” and “POV” From Their Tuesday Time Slots

The Writers Guild of America, East today called on PBS to reverse its recent decision to move the award-winning independent film series “Independent Lens” and “POV” from their long-standing Tuesday time slots. The decision has led to a massive erosion of viewership.

WGAE President Michael Winship urges all Guild members and supporters of independent programming and broadcasting to sign the petition in support of keeping each series in their original time slots.Click here to continue reading…

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 Members Nominated for Primetime, News and Documentary Emmy Awards in Writing 2011

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy SeriesLouie • Poker/Divorce • FX Networks • FX ProductionsLouis C.K., Written ByOutstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy SeriesThe Colbert Report • Comedy Central • Hello Doggie, Inc. with Busboy Productions and Spartina ProductionsBarry Julien, Head WriterStephen Colbert, WriterTom Purcell, WriterRichard Dahm, WriterMichael Brumm, WriterRob Dubbin, WriterPeter Gwinn, WriterJay Katsir, WriterFrank Lesser, WriterGlenn Eichler, WriterMeredith Scardino, WriterMax Werner, WriterEric Drysdale, WriterScott Sherman, WriterDan Guterman, WriterPaul Dinello, Writer Conan • TBS • Conaco LLCMike Sweeney, Head WriterAndy Richter, WriterFrank Smiley, WriterDeon Cole, WriterBerkley Johnson, WriterLaurie Kilmartin, WriterBrian McCann, WriterBrian Stack, WriterThe Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central • Central Productions, LLCSteve Bodow, Head WriterTim Carvell, Head WriterRory Albanese, WriterRich Blomquist, WriterHallie Haglund, WriterJR Havlan, WriterElliott Kalan, WriterSam Means, WriterJo Miller, WriterJohn Oliver, WriterDaniel Radosh, WriterJason Ross, WriterJon Stewart, WriterLate Night With Jimmy Fallon • NBC • Produced by Universal Media Studios and Broadway VideoAD Miles, Head WriterDavid Angelo, WriterPatrick Borelli, WriterGerard Bradford, WriterMichael Dicenzo, WriterJimmy Fallon, WriterEric Ledgin, WriterMorgan Murphy, WriterRobert Patton, WriterGavin Purcell, WriterAmy Ozols, WriterJustin Shanes, WriterMichael Shoemaker, WriterJon Rineman, WriterBobby Tisdale, WriterSaturday Night Live • NBC • SNL Studios in association with NBC Studios and Broadway VideoDoug Abeles, WriterJames Anderson, WriterAlex Baze, WriterHeather Anne Campbell, WriterJessica Conrad, WriterJames Downey, Writer Tom Flanigan, WriterShelly Gossman, WriterSteve Higgins, WriterColin Jost, WriterErik Kenward, WriterRob Klein, WriterSeth Meyers, WriterLorne Michaels, WriterJohn Mulaney, WriterChristine Nangle, WriterMichael Patrick O’Brien, WriterPaula Pell, WriterSimon Rich, WriterMarika Sawyer, WriterKent Sublette, WriterBryan Tucker, WriterOutstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special 2011Louis C.K.: Hilarious • EPIX • Hilarious IncLouis C.K., Written ByNight Of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit For Autism Education • Comedy Central • Busboy Productions & Central ProductionsEric Slovin, Head WriterAndrew Blitz, WriterBrian Huskey, WriterAnthony King, WriterJason Reich, WriterCraig Rowin, WriterAndy Secunda, WriterRobert Smigel, WriterAnthony Jeselnik, Additional Material Written ByThe Real Women Of SNL • NBC • SNL Studios in association with NBC Studios and Broadway VideoPaula Pell, New Material Written BySeth Meyers, New Material Written By64th Annual Tony Awards • CBS • White Cherry Entertainment in association with Tony Award ProductionsDave Boone, Written ByMatt Roberts, Special Material ByMo Rocca, Special Material ByOutstanding Writing For Nonfiction ProgrammingFreedom Riders • PBS • A production of Firelight Films for American ExperienceStanley Nelson, Written By Outstanding Special Class – Short-format Live-Action Entertainment Programs30 Rock: The Webisodes • NBC.com • NBC.com/Universal Media StudiosEric Gurian, Producer

News & Documentary Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing

Bill Moyers Journal • Essays: Equal Opportunity Hypocrites, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dream Deferred, Haiti: History and HopeMichael Winship, Writer

MBA Pattern of Demands 2011

Download the Pattern of Demands for the 2011 MBA Negotiation.

Voting Deadline January 24.

Writers Guild of America Members Unanimously Ratify New Public Broadcasting Contract

NEW YORK CITY – Public television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America have ratified their new contract unanimously. The four-year agreement will take effect immediately and covers members who write content for the three major producers of public television programming, WGBH, WNET and KCET, as well as numerous other, smaller production companies that produce content for PBS.

“Public television and its continuing innovations in digital media continue to make it one of the most important and trusted sources in America and around the world for independent journalism and documentary production, as well as superior programming in the arts, history and science. Writers Guild members have been crucial to its quality and success and we are delighted that this new contract continues our productive, successful relationship,” said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).

“We’re extremely happy to have negotiated this contract for our PBS members, providing strong gains at a time when public television’s budgets have been hit by declines in corporate and charitable giving and when many stations have laid people off and cut operations.  By negotiating and ratifying this contract, our members have ensured they will continue to write the intelligent, high-quality programs PBS is known for, whether the programs are distributed on television or over the Internet,” said Lowell Peterson, WGAE executive director and chief negotiator for this contract.    

Made-for-Internet programming will be covered for the first time under this new collective bargaining agreement, which also preserves payments for digital reuse.

WGA employees working at these stations will receive rate increases of 2% in the second year and 2.75% in the third and fourth years.    

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.

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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

Women in Late Night Comedy/Variety

Female comedy writers in late night television are still a rarity, despite the fact that some of today’s top shows were co-created by women. The Writers Guild of America, East and the Paley Center for Media held a discussion exploring the challenges faced by women writing for late night Comedy/Variety. Panelists offered insider suggestions for increasing female representation on writing staffs in the genre.

Check-out photos from the event.

The WGA, Emmy and Peabody award winning panelists included moderator Allison Silverman (The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Late Night With Conan O’Brien), Anne Cohen (The Best Week Ever), Hallie Haglund (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), Meredith Scardino (The Colbert Report, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Best Week Ever), Jill Goodwin (The Late Show with David Letterman) and Morgan Murphy (The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon). Panelists opened up about their experiences working on late night shows and shared tips on how other women writers can get hired and stay hired in the competitive Comedy/Variety world.