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Not So Happy New Year

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From the January print edition of Below the Line:

The words “Happy New Year” ring hollow as we publish our first issue of 2008. With the writers’ strike extending into its third month, damage is spreading.

It’s tempting to accuse writers — who are sometimes perceived of as being overpaid and cushioned by residuals — of selfishly mounting a job action that has caused many others, including IATSE members, to lose work. This position overlooks the fact that a strike requires two sides: the strikers and the struck. The strikers are an easy target because they’re the ones who walked out, but the struck can be held equally culpable because they have just as much power to end the strike.

What will it take to end this one? A report from Bear Stearns says that only $120 million separates what the writers are demanding and what the studios are willing to pay — an amount that would be split among seven conglomerates. The impact on their bottom lines would be imperceptible.

The main issue, then, is future revenue-sharing in new media. AMPTP members say they are resisting this discussion because they don’t know how new media will shape up. In early December, CBS CEO Les Moonves said: “We want to share that revenue with our content creators … we’re trying to figure out what the world of new media will be and hopefully we can come to some resolution… [and] they’ll share in the pie. Right now we don’t know what that pie is.”

With all due respect, it doesn’t matter what the pie is. This isn’t rocket science. Everyone agrees there will be a pie to share. All that remains to be determined is how to slice that pie — whether a slice represents 4 percent, 8 percent or another number. Whatever percentage is agreed upon, the bigger the pie, the more everyone will get.

So here’s Below the Line’s New Year’s wish for 2008: May cooler heads prevail, may a settlement soon be reached, and may everyone enjoy their share of a growing pie.

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