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Writer’s guild opposes media mergers: Fox Time Warner deal

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BENGALURU: The chatter about moves, countermoves by both sides continues unabated around global media circles. Joining the fray against the Fox Time Warner merger is the Writers Guild of America, West(WGAW), which says that such deals could harm writers.

As mentioned earlier, Time-Warner had rejected Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox (Fox) unsolicited offer allegedly worth about USD 76 billion cash and stock. 21st Century Fox had offered to buy Time Warner for USD 32.42 in cash and offered a ratio of 1.531 Fox class-A share for each Time Warner share. The Fox offer was worth about USD85-86 per share.

Soliciting funds, the WGAW in an email sent to some of its members stated, "As writers, we face a landscape today that the founders of our guild would hardly recognize. For decades, there were dozens of significant buyers in television and movies. Then federal limits on mergers disappeared. FCC regulations requiring independent production in television were repealed.”

“Now, those six conglomerates are threatening to swallow one another. “Think of that. Between them, Fox and Time-Warner would control 40 per cent of the industry’s writing jobs. What happens if more consolidation follows?  What happens if one mega-company ends up devouring them all?”

“Giving to the Guild PAC is vital to your future,” the mail said. “The checks you write to your favourite Senate candidates cannot influence policy. But a powerful PAC, supporting candidates in the name of the WGA, gives us a fighting chance in the war against the corporate madness that threatens us all.”

The mail added, “When our Guild speaks, Washington listens. But to make sure our voices are heard, we need power. Simply put, we need you. This, then, is our call to arms. In the industry as it exists today, writers no longer have the luxury of staying out of politics. Rather, more than ever, we need a voice in them.”

Earlier, TV show runner and creator of the ‘Shield’ (2002-2008 for Fox Television Studios and Sony Pictures Television) and ‘Chicago Code’ (2011 for Fox Broadcasting Company) fame, Shawn Ryan had appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation to discuss the adverse effect of "weak net neutrality regulations" and media consolidation on the creative community.

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

In February 2014, the WGAW had issued a statement opposing the friendly Comcast Time Warner Cable merger that is awaiting approvals. "Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is bad for everyone: content creators, programmers, suppliers, and consumers. As writers know all too well, media consolidation leads to already too powerful companies limiting competition. The WGA will fight to stop this ill-conceived merger.”

Also, on June 24 this year, WGAW president Chris Keyser  testified against the proposed merger of AT&T and DirecTV. Chaired by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes oversight of antitrust law and competition policy, with that day's hearing focused on the AT&T – DirecTV merger and its impact on competition and consumers. “They will use their power to force content providers to accept below market rates for their product," stated Keyser in his testimony. "It is a stated goal of the merger to reduce affiliate fees. The problem is: it is those fees that have fueled the recent boom in creative programming – particularly on cable. Reduce those fees through the outsized power of monopoly – and the result is less creativity, less product, less innovation."

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