The WGA Strike is only a few days old, but the LA Times has already published a number of stories about how new media could effect, and be effected, by the strike. As I was walking up to get some coffee today it struck me…hard! This could be the tipping point for new media happening right here. right now.
During the last strike in 1988, there were few alternatives to network television. Cable was there, as was PBS, but my own television watching started a steady decline during that strike. I began to realize how little there was that I truly appreciated or respected on mainstream television…even though my wife was soon to be a writer/producer for a top 10 show. We instituted a new rule soon after, as well. We didn’t turn the TV on unless there was something we actually wanted to watch. No more turning it on just for noise in the background. The viewing decline continued.
Today, the only television I watched was not television at all! I plugged my laptop into my office TV and watched podcasts and videos from other online video sources. I have my own private television and radio station, which I program, right in my computer or on my iPod. You know what? I don’t really CARE what’s on network or cable TV anymore and I think there are a horde of others progressively feeling the same way.
Sure, I’m an early adopter as they say, but it is only going to take a few weeks of entertainment depravation before people start looking for alternatives…and we, as new media producers, are right here waiting for them. In fact, we should be reaching out to them right now. We should be showing them just how easy it is to get new media on their televisions, on their computers and on their portable players.
It seems clear that the Producers Guild wanted this strike to happen. It appears that they think that this is the time when they will finally break the guilds once and for all. Instead, they might be sowing the seeds of their own demise. The stranglehold they once had over production and distribution has ended. For the first time in history, writers, actors, directors and other creatives don’t need their services anymore. They can talk directly with their audiences. Why should a creative sign away all rights to their product, taking pennies on the dollar, when they can take their product directly to the masses (and the niches)? Why shouldn’t they fight to regain their fair share of the profits?
My own philosophy, stated here many times before is this, the creator of a work deserves the larger share of control and profits generated by their work…period. We have lived in a world of 90/10 for the last century, with traditional media companies getting a progressively larger share. The model has changed, though. Today creatives deserve the 90%. They are doing the work and taking the risk (a claim once used by producers to demand higher percentages). They are creating their projects out of whole cloth and should be rewarded for their work.
Bob Dylan might have said it decades ago, the “the times they are a-changin'” — I think in the best way possible. Instead of allowing traditional media to bust the guilds, I think there is an equal chance that traditional media might just end up destroying their own industry in a fireball of traditional thinking. The emperor has no clothes and everyone is about to see it.
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