Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Writers Guild of America, West sends anti-monopoly spokesperson to Washington to testify at Senate hearing about media concentration

Today, Etopia News received a press release from the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).  Here it is:

Acclaimed TV Showrunner Travels to DC for Future of Video Marketplace Hearing 

Shawn Ryan to Testify on the Hill Wednesday

Washington, DC – Shawn Ryan, TV showrunner and creator of The Shield and The Chicago Code, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation Wednesday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m. (EST).  Mr. Ryan will provide testimony on behalf of the Writers Guild of America, West about the adverse impact of media mergers and weak Net Neutrality regulations on the creative community, consumers, and competition. The committee is chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and the hearing will examine the future of the video marketplace and how it is affected by the rise of online streaming and pending consolidation. 

“The reality of American media is that it is controlled by a handful of companies formed through two decades of consolidation,” states Mr. Ryan. “These companies own the television networks, the production studios and almost all of the scripted content that is available on television and in movie theaters. The cable companies that distribute this content are even more concentrated.” 

Media companies, as a result, wield an enormous amount of power in all aspects of the business. Writers, who provide much of the R&D for the entertainment industry, often bear all the risk of developing new creative works while the media companies, through their control of distribution, reap the rewards. If a television series creator and a network experience creative differences, it is the writer who is replaced, not the network. Consumers fare no better in this equation as monopoly power restricts creative expression, limits content choices and drives up prices.

Mr. Ryan believes the future of the video marketplace will be determined by the choices we make today as a society. The amount of broadcast network programming created independently has dwindled to a mere 10% of the fall line-up – an alarming decline from 76% in 1989. Citing the repeal of the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules and the vertical and horizontal integration of media companies as the main reasons for this disturbing trend, he believes legislators need to take strong steps to restore vitality to the entertainment industry.      

“The open Internet has the potential to create a video marketplace that is more competitive, diverse and independent. But it is clear that action is needed to fulfill this promise,” Mr. Ryan will tell the committee. “The Internet is an information highway, and just as Congress does not allow a handful of private companies to erect tollbooths on our nation’s actual highways, it cannot allow a few ISPs to set arbitrary rates and decide which businesses, video providers or political organizations can have prioritized delivery and which are relegated to a slow lane. Internet providers would be allowed to strangle innovation in the cradle. Can we really expect the next Netflix, Amazon or Crackle to emerge under these circumstances? Strong Net Neutrality rules that ban paid prioritization and other discriminatory practices must be enacted.”

On the proposed consolidation, Mr. Ryan states, “We also need effective antitrust enforcement. Our country, from the time of the founding fathers, has been defined by a struggle to limit concentrations of power that harm both democracy and basic economic fairness.  We once again have an opportunity to serve the interests of the many rather than the few by stopping these mergers and by keeping the Internet free and open.”            

For Shawn Ryan’s written testimony, click here.

The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit: www.wga.org.


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