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New TV Shows And Movies? They'll Stay In The Writer's Mind If There's A Strike

TV and film writers resumed contract negotiations Tuesday with Hollywood producers with a powerful bargaining tool. Late Monday, the Writers Guild of America said members had overwhelmingly authorized a strike if an agreement is not reached by May 1. That's when the current contract runs out.

More than 90 percent of eligible writers voted to authorize a strike, even though the last strike a decade ago cost some writers their jobs and shut down TV and movie production.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers represents some 350 TV and film companies. After the writers' vote results were announced, the organization released this statement recounting the effects of the last strike.

"The companies are committed to reaching a deal at the bargaining table that keeps the industry working. The 2007 Writers Strike hurt everyone. Writers lost more than $287 million in compensation that was never recovered, deals were cancelled, and many writers took out strike loans to make ends meet."

The problem, the Writers Guild says, is that producers don't want to pay writers as much money as writers want. In fact, the Writers Guild says members are losing money — in the last two years alone, it says, the average salary for a TV writer-producer has declined 23 percent. That's because the TV industry is rapidly changing. Many writers get paid by the episode, and TV seasons have gotten shorter than the 22 episodes that had been standard on network TV. On streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, a season can be 13 episodes or even 10.

If a strike does occur, late-night television talk shows could be the first affected. Shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah need fresh material every day. During the last strike, some late-night shows went into reruns.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As supervising editor for Arts and Culture at NPR based at NPR West in Culver City, Ted Robbins plans coverage across NPR shows and online, focusing on TV at a time when there's never been so much content. He thinks "arts and culture" encompasses a lot of human creativity — from traditional museum offerings to popular culture, and out-of-the-way people and events.