Supporting the writers strike

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 17, 2008 Ed Cartoon

With the writers strike in its third month, TV fans are wondering when their favourite shows will re-appear.

While the issue may seem trivial, television programming plays a role in many students’ lives, whether it is fodder for easy discussion during studying or they’re passionate about an ongoing series. Therefore it’s worthwhile to look at the repercussions the strike is having on our relationship with television.

Students who regularly enjoy televised series are learning the importance of writers. It is they who conceive of the programs we watch, and without them we’re left with inane drivel like American Gladiators.

Many see the strike as having a good guy/bad guy dynamic, with one side being the clear victim of the other’s misdeeds. In this case, the writers are clearly winning out. As network executives belittle the writers and TV hosts explain the strike on the writers’ behalf and throw their support behind them.

The writers gave up a percentage of the margin they made off of programming 23 years ago to help the industry adapt to the introduction of home theatre systems, on the condition that their percentage would increase once the industry had adapted. This has never happened, and it is time the networks gave them a better deal, especially when the rise of television through the Internet looks to cut costs on the sale of media.

Talk shows have made headlines, in particular David Letterman of The Late Show, who has been the only host who has returned to the air with the support of writers. Other hosts that are without writers, like Jay Leno of The Tonight Show, are faring poorly as viewers realize the dependence of talk show hosts on their writers. Leno has been painfully unfunny and many viewers feel the same about other hosts.

As the strike continues, many students’ appetites for their favourite series are only whetted. Some find themselves watching reruns through downloaded episodes or series on DVD, while others are catching up on series that have garnered hype.

It is therefore unlikely that our love for TV will be adversely affected by the strike. However, it is unfortunate the whole industry, both in the US and Canada, must suffer from the continued refusal of the networks to share profits with writers.

What we can take from this ordeal is an appreciation for the people behind popular entertainment, and as we as students move into careers in other fields, we can appreciate the fight for a fair return for our work.

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