Skip to main content

WGA News - June 15, 2011

Recent news from the Writers Guild of America, West and Writers Guild of America East, including Congressional hearings on net neutrality and First Lady Michelle Obama's Joining Forces campaign.

On May 27, 2011, the WGAW issued a statement urging the FCC to protect local broadcast stations by maintaining strong cable retransmission consent rules. The statement was issued in response to changes proposed by Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (the cable and satellite TV companies) currently under consideration by the FCC. The proposed action would hurt the ability of broadcast stations to seek appropriate compensation for the network programming that the MVPDs feature on their lineups when they retransmit the local stations’ signals. This would in turn reduce the revenue available for investment in new original programming nationally and locally, harming both content creators and consumers.

The statement reads as follows:

"The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue to protect local broadcasting through strong retransmission consent rules. The FCC must not weaken the current regulations, which require cable TV operators and direct-broadcast satellite providers to negotiate with television broadcast stations for permission to carry their local and national programming.

“The FCC’s mandate to promote diversity, localism, and competition in media is served by retransmission rules that protect broadcast stations,” said WGAW President John Wells. “Watering down the rules would undermine these important objectives.”

In comments filed in response to the FCC’s March 3, 2011 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) the Guild states:

“The WGAW is concerned with the detrimental impact weakening retransmission consent rules would have on both the local and national content created by our members and enjoyed by consumers. The changes proposed by Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) and considered by the FCC in the NPRM would undoubtedly enhance the market power possessed by MVPDs…the WGAW has a strong record of supporting consumer protections and believes the interests of content creators and consumers are very closely aligned on this issue. Writers have an interest in seeing their content reach as wide an audience as possible; consumers want reliable delivery of the programming they pay to access and the local news on which they rely. Any FCC action must be designed to serve these complementary interests, rather than further enhancing MVPD market power.”

A full copy of the filing can be downloaded here.

Capitol Hill Briefing

On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, members of the WGAE met with members of Congress to discuss the creation and distribution of programs on the Internet and what it means for public policy. Among the issues addressed were: net neutrality, digital distribution, and online piracy. A statement issued by the WGAE explained the purpose of the discussion:

"Digital technology presents a vast range of possibilities to content creators and consumers alike. But, what would happen to these possibilities if creators were deprived of direct access to audiences, if digital media came to be dominated by a small handful of major players as in television and feature film? ... Without the open Internet, their access to audiences would be limited, restricting their ability to earn a living. The WGAE supports net neutrality; it believes digital technology presents a unique opportunity to content creators and consumers alike and will continue to grow as a more mainstream distribution channel for both entertainment and news content. The WGAE opposes online piracy; it does not believe an open Internet will increase digital piracy."

Panelists included:

Michael Winship - senior writing fellow at public policy research and advocacy organization Demos, former senior writer for Bill Moyers Journal, and current WGAE President
Tom Ruprecht - former staff writer for The Late Show with David Letterman, current writer on How I Met Your Mother, and author of George W. Bush: An Unauthorized Oral History
Daryn Strauss - creator of the critically acclaimed Web series Downsized and founder of, the foremost hub for women-driven projects in new media
Thom Woodley - Web video pioneer and founder of Diorama, Web video channel aimed at programming television-quality independent content
Julie Ann Emery - creator, director, and executive producer of the award-winning Web series Then We Got Help!
Thomas Poarch - co-creator, writer, and producer of the Web series Brosephs
Michael Kantor – director, producer, and writer of the PBS documentary Broadway: The American Musical and co-writer-producer of Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America
Gina Gionfriddo - playwright of Becky Shaw, television writer for shows including Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Cold Case, and current WGAE Council Member
Duane Tollison - newswriter for CBS Radio Network and current WGAE Council Member

First Lady to Meet with Hollywood Guilds

In response to the Joining Forces initiative launched by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden in April, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, and the Writers Guild of America, West formed a Joining Forces Inter-Guild Task Force to provide creative and production support for the program and to inform and inspire their memberships about the service of America’s military families.

On Monday, June 13, 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama will discuss these topics with military family members and a panel of Hollywood professionals at the Writers Guild of America, West Theater in Beverly Hills. Monday’s discussion will shed light on the unique challenges military families face and showcase the families’ strength, resilience, and service to our nation. The military family members who will share inspirational stories of service and sacrifice of active duty service men and women, veterans, and the military families who serve alongside our soldiers. Participants will also discuss ways in which entertainment content can better reflect this American reality.

Moderated by writer/director J. J. Abrams, the Hollywood panel will also include WGAW president John Wells, Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), Katherine Fugate (Army Wives), and Damon Lindelof (Lost). The panel is co-sponsored by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).