Join the Reality
Revolution. On July 21st, we, the
writers of America’s Next Top Model became the FIRST reality
go on strike.
Who are we? We are the writers of America's Next Top Model. We are the
people who turn hundreds of hours of footage into engaging episodes of
model-drama. We are the shows biggest fans. We are 12 hard working
storytellers who helped create a succesful show that makes millions of
dollars for the network.
All we want are some basic
benefits like health
insurance and recognition for the work we do. The Networks are refusing
to negotiate with us AT ALL. We have decided to take a stand against
the outrageous greed. We are standing up for ourselves as well as for
others who work in reality who are also getting a raw deal. We deeply
appreciate all your support.
Take Action: Support the Writers
of America’s Next Top Model. Go to the Pride at Work site to
send a message
to Executive Producer Tyra Banks and CW President Dawn Ostroff
The following is from the NYC IMC's Indypendent newspaper.
Reality Bites: Television Writers Strike
From the September
21, 2006 issue | Posted in National
Televison Writers Strike
A reality show that features Tyra Banks putting a group of
models through fashion boot-camp hardly seems a likely candidate to be
at the center of a potentially industry-altering movement. Yet it is.
On July 21, the twelve-person writing staff of
America’s Next Top
Model became the first reality TV writers to go on strike.We ask to be
represented by the Writer’s Guild of America West (WGAw). We
ask for a
fair wage and basic benefits such as health insurance, pensions, wage
minimums, residuals and credits. Although no other reality TV writers
have gone on strike, over 1,000 have signed cards indicating that they
want union representation.
While reality TV writers do not write dialogue, we are
who take hundreds of hours of footage and create structured stories in
script form. We have contributed greatly to the success of a highly
profitable TV show which is about to start its seventh season.We are
only seeking the basic benefits that others in our industry enjoy. The
new CW network (which is born of a merger between UPN’s
CBS and Warner Brothers) is adamantly opposed to this. Why all this
resistance over 12 people seeking relatively inexpensive benefits?
Conceding will open a Pandora’s box for the entertainment
Reality shows have become a significant source of revenue for
entertainment industry, largely because these shows are generally
non-union. When “The Real World” came along in 1992
and kicked off the
reality TV genre as we know it, no one thought reality TV would be
around long. The shows became a free-for-all in terms of wages and
working conditions. Fourteen years later, reality shows are a mainstay
of the industry. Nine of the top 20 television shows for the 2005-06
season were reality programs. While revenues have risen, the cost to
make these shows remains a fraction of that of traditionally scripted
Unionization in reality TV is strongly discouraged. No reality
writers have been able to unionize. A few positions, like editors on
some reality shows, have been able to organize with other unions. With
the WGAw, however, there is an even greater incentive for the network
to dig its heels in against us.
The proliferation of reality shows has resulted in less
for WGA members, and thus has weakened the guild’s power. The
be renegotiating its master contract with the networks in 2007, and an
industrywide strike is a distinct possibility. Reality television, it
turns out, could be a major bargaining chip if that happens. If reality
writers are part of the WGA we will be part of that strike. If not, the
network will maintain a source of cheap programming to help them ride
out a long WGA strike.
So the 12 of us are caught between a rock and a hard place.
network and the union have locked horns, while we linger on the picket
line, stuck in a stall-riddled National Labor Relations Board process
that will likely last longer than our jobs. My hope is that a mediator
will emerge to find a way to remove us from the middle of this
tug-of-war and get us a fair deal. Then again, fair deals
don’t seem to
be much in fashion these days.
Illustration: Leo Garcia