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WGA News - May 19, 2011

WGA news on the Hollywood Writers Report, the Protect IP Act, Lion Television, and much more...

Hollywood Writers Report

On May 18, 2011, the WGAW released the Executive Summary of its 2011 Hollywood Writers Report: Recession and Regression. The study examines writers’ employment and earnings by ethnicity, gender, and age from 2008 through 2009 in the motion picture and television industry. As in previous years, diverse writers face significant obstacles to employment in Hollywood. Some of the key findings in the summary include:

• Women writers’ overall employment share declined, driven by a one-point loss in the film sector, where women writers’ share dipped from 18% in 2007 to 17% in 2009.

• Although the employment share for women television writers remained stable (still a very low 28%), the earnings gap in television between male and female writers widened again – an 84% increase from the previous report, issued in 2009.

• While the minority share of television employment rebounded to 2005 levels (still a very low 10% up from 9%), the minority share of film employment declined to the lowest level in a decade (down from 6% to 5%).

• Despite the gain in television employment, the television earnings gap for minorities widened to the largest level in a decade. The television earnings gap for minorities more than doubled since the 2009 report.

• The employment rate remained flat for the largest group of older writers (age 41-50) at 61%; however the employment group for the youngest group of writers (under age 31), declined by four percentage points. TV writers age 51-60 had a decline of 1%, whereas writers age 61-70 actually had an increase of 1%.

The report was authored by Darnell Hunt, Ph.D., director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and professor of sociology at UCLA. “From the initial project pitch to project completion, each phase of the production pipeline has the potential to serve as a barrier to or facilitator of increased diversity among industry writers,” Hunt states. “The WGAW is committed to working with the rest of the industry to ensure that the production pipeline is shaped less by the former and more by the latter. Diversity is not a luxury, not even in tough times. The Hollywood industry, in the final analysis, depends on increasingly diverse audiences and on the stories to which they can relate.”

The full report will be available in late summer. To view the 2011 Hollywood Writers Report’s Executive Summary, go to:

Protect IP Act

On May 12, Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ranking member Senator Chuck Grassley, and the other seven bipartisan senators introduced the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act” (PROTECT IP Act). This legislation recognizes that parties such as ad networks, payment processors, ISPs, and search engines have a responsibility to help combat piracy and requires them to do so. In response to the new legislation, John Wells, president of the WGAW, said:
“The Guild supports Chairman Leahy’s bill, which strongly combats piracy while respecting free speech and the right to privacy. This legislation recognizes the need for both strong copyright protection and an open internet.”

The WGAW reaffirmed its commitment to curtailing piracy and protecting the copyrighted works its members create by working with Leahy to ensure passage of this legislation and by working with Congress on other problematic elements of international piracy that this bill does not address.

Lion Television

On May 6, the WGAE announced that Lion Television has agreed to recognize the Guild as the collective bargaining representative of its writers, producers, associate producers and researchers. Employees working on such shows as Cash Cab for Discovery Network, Megadrive for MTV, and History Detectives and America Revealed for PBS had voted for Guild representation in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has just certified the election results. The Lion Television bargaining unit will include almost 100 people. Lion TV employees voted for Guild representation in December as part of an ongoing organizing campaign at many non-fiction basic cable production companies.

“We welcome the Lion employees into our creative community, where they will join thousands of other members who do some of the best work in television, film, radio, and digital. We are pleased that Lion respects their decision to become part of the Writers Guild and we look forward to a long and productive relationship,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson.