On February 24, the Guild launched a new digital media education program at the Paley Center for Media on “The Economics of Digital Media.” The seminar is the first in the WGAE’s educational curriculum, which is a key component of its recently announced Writers Guild 2.0 initiative, which includes seminars, classes, and group discussions for current and prospective members, a job training program, an upgraded web site, and sustained organizing efforts in digital media.
In May, ABC News employees represented by the WGAE overwhelmingly (89% yes; 11% no) ratified a new contract with the network. 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, 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.
Also in May, the Guild issued this statement today in response to a news report that FCC Chairman Genachowski is leaning toward not reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service: “The Writers Guild of America, East is deeply troubled by the report in the May 2 Washington Post suggesting that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski is ‘leaning toward’ a decision not to reclassify broadband as a ‘telecommunications service’ under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC can and must act decisively to protect the Internet from those who would limit access for commercial or political gain. As the FCC itself has noted, the Internet is likely to become the preeminent method of distributing news, public affairs, and entertainment programs in the future. We would therefore remind the Commission and the White House of President Obama’s pledge to preserve ‘net neutrality’ – to keep the Internet open as a democratic and uncensored forum equally available to everyone. Despite these rumors that the FCC might choose the path of inaction, we hope the Commission will fulfill its obligations to the American people – to consumers and content creators alike.”
In June, the WGAE announced that in the first five months of 2010, it has signed 23 new digital media signatories to new contracts, including Atticus Entertainment, Jack In A Box, Gravity Sleeps, Gotham The Series, One Part Robot Productions, Latinowood Media, and Hot Garbage Video. In addition, WGAE signatory Dinosaur Diorama, headed by Thom Woodley, signed another contract for its new show, RFP. This more than doubles the number of digital signatories signed by the WGAE in 2009 and brings the total of WGAE digital signatories to 43. Twenty eight writers have become new Guild members as a result of these new contracts.
Finally, the Guild announced that at the end of June it would be moving from its current headquarters at 555 West 57th to new downtown headquarters located at 250 Hudson Street, just above Tribeca. To accompany the move, the WGAE also has a new logo: