My column in this week’s print TIME is, shockingly, about the screenwriters’ strike. It’s largely a greatest-hits of subjects I’ve blogged about here, with the emphasis on how a prolonged strike could end up hurting both sides, by accelerating the audience attrition that was already a problem for TV in particular: “The producers and writers continue playing chicken on a railroad track, with you as the oncoming train.”
Why am I knocking the writers and studios together here? Didn’t I say I was on the writers’ side about getting paid for their work on the Internet? Ethically, yes: it’s only fair that writers get a cut, when their bosses are selling downloads and ads on streaming video, just like they do with reruns. I’d like them to be able to scare the bejesus out of their bosses and win their fair share in a short and nondisastrous walkout. But at least in nonfiction, wishing doesn’t make things so. Just because I’m with the writers ethically doesn’t mean I can ignore the fact that, practically, the writers and studios seem to be engaged in mutually assured destruction.
Let’s end this on a happy note, though, shall we? If there’s a slight hope that this strike may end sooner than it’s looking, it may come from the show runners–the big-name producer-writers who create and oversee TV series. They’ve been walking out on their productions in unexpectedly high numbers, despite contracts obligating them to produce, though not write, during a writers’ strike. This means that the networks will probably have even less time than expected before running out of episodes of primetime dramas and sitcoms. Maybe, just maybe, cross your fingers, this could pressure the studios to come back to the bargaining table and end this sooner.