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2007

Writers strike stalls production of TV shows, movies

On this day in 2007, members of the Writers Guild of America, East, and Writers Guild of America, West—labor organizations representing television, film and radio writers—go on strike in Los Angeles and New York after negotiations break down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a trade group that represents TV and film producers in the United States, including CBS, NBC Universal, Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures, News Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment, MGM and Warner Brothers. The strike caused production to shut down on more than 60 TV shows and resulted in a loss of $3 billion, by some estimates, to the Los Angeles economy alone.

The strike’s key issues included the writers’ demand for a larger share of DVD revenues and payment for films and TV shows distributed over the Internet and other forms of new media. Late-night talk shows, which used guild writers, were immediately affected by the strike and went into reruns. Production also shut down on many prime-time comedies and dramas; however, some had stockpiled completed programming and were able to avoid going straight into reruns.

After a series of stalemated discussions, leaders from both sides eventually reached a tentative agreement, and on February 12, 2008, WGA members voted to end the strike and go back to work. The strike officially ended on February 26, when WGA members overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract with the AMPTP.

The impact of the writers’ walkout was felt across the entertainment industry, from actors to caterers to editors to set designers to animal wranglers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated the strike resulted in a loss to the local economy of more than $3 billion. The Times article stated: “Of that total, an estimated $772 million came from lost wages for writers and production workers, $981 million from various businesses that service the industry, including caterers and equipment rental houses, and $1.3 billion from the ripple effect of consumers not spending as much at retail shops, restaurants and car dealers.”

Previous multiple-month strikes launched by Writers Guild members in 1960 and 1988 had also greatly impacted the entertainment industry, bringing TV and movie production to a standstill and costing millions in revenue.

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