The following is the complete text of an open letter written by striking WGA soap opera writers to Soap Opera Digest columnist Carolyn Hinsey.
Dear Ms. Hinsey,
Daytime "scribes" everywhere were disappointed to read your column in the Dec. 4th Soap Opera Digest suggesting that we have no stake in the current contract negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the AMPTP, and have been forced to walk away from our jobs simply because we are WGA members.
Nothing could be further from the truth. For the first time in years, our issues are exactly the same as all writers in every genre -- we want Guild contracts and fair compensation for our work whether it's aired on TV, streamed on the net or downloaded to a cell phone or other device. Our position is basic: If it's on a screen and it moves, the Guild covers it. And we want residuals for the re-use of that work. Residuals can be a boon to daytime writers between jobs and are a long-established cost of airing our work in other markets.
What that means in real terms for writers is the difference between being able to provide for your family -- or not. Having health insurance -- or not. Becoming seniors with a Union-provided pension -- or not. Daytime writers share these concerns with every other writer in the industry.
You contend that "soaps are not released on DVD or streamed onto the Web," but even a cursory cruise around the internet would have revealed otherwise. You can now buy any one of several Dark Shadows DVD sets on Amazon for up to $54.99, and fans are clamoring to have their currently aired soaps follow suit. The reason more soaps aren't released on DVD is because complete episodes can already be downloaded on NBC, ABC and CBS websites. Advertising is being sold on these sites and often imbedded into the show itself. But even though companies get revenue from advertisers, still there's no universal agreement for compensating the writers for the re-use of their work.
You suggest we exempt ourselves from this strike. But why? We're steamed. Days of Our Lives has been available for sale on the net for over a year. Writers' share? Zilch. And though Televest entered into an agreement with us, other producers have yet to do the same. You suggest daytime writers are ill-timed in their demands? We say we've been extremely patient.
You assert we're "screwing the pooch" with this labor action and that If "the shows get worse and ratings fall there will be fewer jobs in daytime" But the reality is that there will always be a demand for romance and serials. Audiences aren't shrinking, but the way they access content is diversifying. The internet is the future of soaps. Sure, daytime TV has taken a "hit". But not from the writers. As the last twenty years has shown, networks certainly don't need us to strike to pull the plug on a show.
NBC recently cancelled Passions -- a Guild-covered show. Then they created a new soap for the internet called Coastal Dreams. The writer, though paid, gets none of the benefits that a Guild contract would have provided. More and more serialized shows are being created for the net without proper compensation for the writers who create them, and that is why action now is both sensible and necessary.
Over 130 daytime writers signed an ad taken out in the Nov. 30th Variety pledging their support for the strike and the issues about which all writers are passionate. We urge you to consider it.
The Daytime Committee of the Writers Guild of America East and West
Learn more about why the Writers Guild of America is on strike.
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