Editorial | TV writers should get paid fairly


Image via Nenad Stojkovic, Wikimedia Commons

A person uses a television remote.

The Writers Guild of America is discussing a potential walkout after monthslong complaints about the lack of fair pay and the need for a collective bargaining agreement that ensures benefits, rights and protections for streaming series. Negotiations began in March, but many writers saw them as counterintuitive. The writers will vote on whether to authorize a strike this week. 

As the landscape of television has changed, it’s unfortunate that the writers who move this landscape forward are not adequately compensated for the amazing and creative work they do. As the industry continues to grow into different mediums such as streaming, the contracts of those behind the scenes need to grow with them — even if this means that television has to halt. The well-being of the writers matters more than the storylines on our favorite shows.

There was a writer’s strike in 2007-08 after three months of negotiations in which a deal was not reached. The strike lasted 100 days and stripped $2.1 billion from the L.A. economy. This strike occurred after the landscape of television started to change with new platforms to watch television — iTunes and other “new media.” 

This “new media” created a system where writers fall through the cracks and aren’t properly compensated for their work. Today, streaming has created an entirely new terrain in Hollywood. Writers can’t get the same compensation in the new industry giant while studios have gotten richer and richer. 

Streaming services have deprived writers of crucial income sources and decreased pay overall, while the streaming services themselves have netted record revenues and profits. Streaming is a billion-dollar industry that’s led the average writer’s weekly income to decrease by four percent over the last decade. Rather than having a system where writers are paid residuals for every time their work is aired on television, writers instead receive a one-time payment, or “click-based royalties.”

Studios need to work with the writers to find a fair way to compensate them for the “new media” of streaming. The potential strike shows just how willing these writers are to fight for fair pay within the new system. TV struggled without its writers during the 2007-08 strike. From strange creative choices on the network’s top shows, to the rise of reality TV, to fewer opportunities for up-and-coming writers, the landscape of TV was weird. 

We are currently in a golden age of television, and this is thanks to the amazing ability of Hollywood writers to write some of the most creative TV we have ever seen. They deserve appropriate compensation for this work. If they strike, the industry will become stunted, and studios will begin to lose exorbitant amounts of money. Studios need to come to the bargaining table and make a feasible agreement — the future of television depends on it.