Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Irony of the Threat to Boycott the CBS Debate

The article, “Strike Could Cancel CBS Debate,” was published in the New York Times on November 21, 2007.

Statement from the article: “Most of the Democratic candidates for president said today that they would skip the Dec. 10 presidential debate sponsored by CBS News if news writers decide to strike.”

My point of view: The democratic candidates are supporting the Writers Guild of America (WGA), but by doing this, they are implicitly supporting the creation of unemployment. Why don’t they get this?

The picket lines started in early November, and the Presidential candidates surely got on board quickly; John Edwards has already joined the picket line. The Democratic candidates have decided that their time is best spent honoring a writers’ strike, rather than debating larger issues such as economic trends, immigration, health care, or even, defense spending.

The WGA is a union of writers in film, television, and radio. My understanding of the strike is that the members of WGA demand an increase in Writer’s residuals. Writer’s residuals are a percentage of the sales of subsequent airing or viewing of shows on DVD or through internet-based sources (such as iTunes). The WGA claims that the percentage is too low (or nonexistent), but the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) will not meet fully the demands of the WGA. AMPTP argues that DVD and internet-based residual sales are used to offset rising production costs.

There is an economic irony here; when the candidates support the WGA by joining the picket line and boycotting the debate, they are endorsing the resulting unemployment. Unions create unemployment….especially in a case like this. If what AMPTP says is true, that production costs are rising, then after successfully negotiating their contract, some members of the WGA will lose their jobs. Why? Assume that the WGA succeeds in negotiating a larger share of all DVD and internet-based sales, which is the equivalent to increasing the pay of writers who are members of the WGA. Two things happen. First, costs to AMPTP rise even further. This reduces the studios’ profit margins, and they will hire fewer (or even fire) writers. Second, writers that would not have entered this market before the negotiation will choose to do so at the higher pay. There will be more writers in the market fighting for jobs.

So my question is this: Why would a party that focuses so heavily on the welfare of the average worker want to create unemployment in the industry of writing in film, television, and radio?

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