Studios Push Back on WGA’s ‘Gig Economy’ Claims, Reject TV ‘Hiring Quota’

The organization that represents major Hollywood studios issued its first detailed response on Thursday to a series of issues raised by the Writers Guild of America in its three-day-old strike.

In a four-page document, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers pushed back on the guild’s claim that the studios are seeking to force writers into a “gig economy.” The AMPTP argued that writers enjoy fringe benefits and guaranteed employment terms that have “almost nothing in common” with standard gig jobs.

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The AMPTP also rejected the need for a “hiring quota” for TV writers, saying it is “incompatible with the creative nature of our industry.” The guild is proposing a staffing mandate that, for most shows, would require a writers room of at least six to 12 writers.

“We don’t agree with applying a one-size-fits-all solution to shows that are unique and different in their approach to creative staffing,” the AMPTP stated. “Some writers are the sole voice of a show and others work with only a small team. The WGA’s proposals would preclude that.”

The AMPTP previously indicated that the TV staff minimum is a “primary sticking point” in the talks. The WGA has said that its staffing proposal is only meant to be an opening offer, but that the studios refused to engage at all on the subject.

The studio group also responded to the guild’s claims on artificial intelligence, which has become a major issue on the picket lines. At a rally on Wednesday night, WGA negotiations committee co-chair Chris Keyser warned that eventually almost all shows could be written by one writer and a computer.

Keyser has also said that the AMPTP refused to rule out using AI in the future, and agreed only to meet annually on the subject as technology develops.

In the document, the AMPTP stated that AI “raises hard, important creative and legal questions for everyone.”

“For example, writers want to be able to use this technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined, which is complicated given AI material can’t be copyrighted,” the AMPTP stated. “So it’s something that requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing.”

The AMPTP also noted that the current WGA contract already includes a definition of “writer” that excludes an “impersonal purveyor” of literary material, “meaning that only a ‘person’ can be considered a writer and enjoy the terms and conditions of the Basic Agreement.” The AMPTP also argued that under the current contract, AI cannot claim a writing credit.

The guild is seeking to protect writers’ compensation and credits from encroachment by AI, and it has said that the studios’ assurances are insufficient to ensure that they won’t seek to replace writers with AI.

The AMPTP also argued that it has made an offer that includes the “highest first-year increase offered to the WGA in more than 25 years.” The studios are offering 4% increases in minimum rates in the first year, followed by raises of 3% and 2%. The WGA has said that it is seeking 6%, 5% and 5%. The studios are also offering a 7% raise in minimums for writer-producers, which would create a new tier for mid-level writers and give them a total first-year increase of 11%.

The guild is seeking a 25% hike in writer-producer minimums, for a total of 31% in the first year of the contract.

WGA negotiators have said that the raises in minimum rates are insufficient without minimum standards on staff size and the number of weeks of employment.

“They’re paying us the lowest possible rate for the fewest possible weeks,” Keyser said on the picket lines on Tuesday.

The guild has also focused on increasing streaming residuals. The AMPTP said that writers received a 46% increase in streaming residuals in their last contract, which began to kick in only last year.

The studio group argued that the guild is now seeking another 200% increase in foreign streaming residuals, and that the guild proposal “treats foreign subscribers the same as domestic subscribers.”

“However, subscription fees vary from country to country, and in many countries, the subscription fee is substantially less than it is in the U.S.,” the AMPTP said. “Nevertheless, the companies have recognized the importance of foreign streaming and have offered to increase the residual.”

Talks broke down on Monday night, after the AMPTP refused to make further moves on the WGA’s “key proposals.” The strike began on Tuesday morning.

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