The DGA deal is a good start

by Paul William Tenny

Chances are I won't have any net access on the 19th because of weather, so I'm just jotting this down tonight (the 18th) for everyone to read tomorrow. Just a thought or two about the DGA deal -- primarily being that a lot of "moderates" seem to be extremely happy with the deal and though I've not actually seen it, many of them are undoubtedly going to pressure the leadership to take whatever the childish AMPTP offers them.

Honestly, I think that's dumb.
What the DGA got was much of what the WGA was trying to get but was being told not that such things were possible with bargaining, but that (paraphrasing) "writers are fucking stupid even to ask for this stuff." They said that, walked away from talks twice, and then immediately offered precisely those things to the DGA, and they expect writers to come back to the table at which they were left standing for a third time to get what they were asking for two months ago.

I don't think so.

Though there is a lot in that deal to like, there are things not to. The AMPTP is still set on paying as little as neccessary to artists through so-called "promotional" use that allows streaming and downloads residual-free for an initial x-day period. From a pragmatic standpoint, that's a non-starter because it's designed entirely to favor them, and screw everyone else.

Most everything in this world as far as interest is concerned operates on a sliding scale. Be it films in the theater, or DVDs or games on a store shelf, they reach the peak of their popularity within the first few days, and lose steam as the weeks roll on until there is nothing left but a trickle. The AMPTP wants to pay nothing at all for streaming video for the first 2-3 weeks (during the WGA negotiations, I think it was a hell of a lot longer than that) and then only start paying at the old, unacceptable DVD rate. Higher rates kick in only after a certain number of "downloads" or "streams" are reached, 17-2x days out, well after the popularity of a given TV show rerun will have passed.

For that issue to even be within shouting distance, that number has to be less than five days. Preferably no more than two. After that, the potential for revenue drops considerably for TV shows (which is what this is all about, film stuff is secondary and will remain primarily on DVD for a long time) which is why the AMPTP wants that gap to be as large as possible.

For whatever reason, the DGA was content to get screwed on that number, and I hope the WGA will stand firm on this no-pseudo-promotional bullshit. The mantra of "you get paid, we get paid" is perfectly fair and as a percentage is reasonable at all levels of commerce.

The DGA had a shot to get a better number there, but they didn't, and their failings shouldn't be paid for by the WGA and SAG.

Reality jurisdiction obviously wasn't addressed and is still going to be a huge sticking point. I still don't think it should be dropped just to make things go smooth. If should be used for what it is, and traded away only if absolutely necessary. Perhaps if that's what needs to happen to get a realistic and reasonable "promotional" time limit on streaming and downloads (of which the DGA numbers are neither) then do *that*, but don't just throw it away.

The AMPTP hates it like no other thing precisely because it costs them so much power in the case of future strikes. For that reason alone, it should stay on the table until the AMPTP has proven itself mature enough to be trusted to deal it away.

And that's a point with beating to death, everything they have done up until this point has been childish, arrogant, adolescent, possibly illegal and certainly self destructive. The AMPTP should not be rewarded for that kind of behavior with a quick deal on the terms that writers would have been happy with two months ago.

The simple fact that much of what the DGA deal contains is what the WGA wanted back in November speaks so much to the AMPTP's petulant behavior that even after this strike has been settled, in an ideal world, they ought to be investigated by the federal government for  collusion and unfair, dishonest bargaining (both of which are illegal.)

If the behavior the WGA has had to put up with carries no consequences into the future, it'll be repeated over and over again until it does.

The truth is the DGA deal is far from ideal. It has good aspects that the AMPTP dishonestly refused to give the WGA, but at this point if I were the leadership, my only statement is that it's a good starting point, nothing more, nothing less.

As for the spin coming out of Variety that the non-existent secret cabal of extremely powerful A-list screenwriters and TV showrunners are telling the leadership to accept the DGA deal, or they'll go fi-core immediately -- forget about it. All you're really hearing is corporate spin amplifying the noise of a few disgruntled, self centered jerks who in all likelihood voted against the strike in the first place.

These are the same people complaining about the Worldwide Pants/WGA deal but were completely silent with the WGA made deals with United Artists and The Weinstein Company that would allow some of them to get back to work.

What it boils down to: the DGA deal is a good starting place. No more, no less.
in Digital Media, Labor


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