07 December, 2007

Write-hand turn

Broadcast:

Write-hand turn

After the fuss over my writers' strike column, even I don't agree with myself.

I'm still recovering from the kicking I received as a result of suggesting that writers striking in the US was a slightly futile mission. Like all strong opinions briefly held I'm not sure that I still agree with myself, which is I think is an acceptable position, as there is genuinely no point in starting an argument unless you are prepared to change your mind.

I suppose that what I was trying to say, and maybe failed, was that we in the press have been lucky in being clear that our work has a monetary value of nil. Even when people pay for papers it does not cover the cost of the newsprint. It doesn't mean your work is not valued by people, it just does not have a monetary value - so the chance of becoming deluded that it does is remarkably low. If you start from that position then you begin to work out a new and much changed business model for your industry. Judging by the hullabaloo around Kangaroo, the media player launched by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, TV still has some way to go.

One thing that I will note, however, is how effectively the striking writers are using the internet, so much so that one wonders whether Jon Stewart's scriptwriters should ever go back to work and instead would be better off just signing an advertising deal with YouTube. It would certainly last much longer than the average 12-week life cycle of your hothouse writers room in LA.

Publishing straight to YouTube is, I am sure, the way that the creative industry will increasingly find its market rather than through the risk-averse and increasingly impoverished broadcast networks. I noticed the other day that my 10-year-old was watching Weird Al Yankovic videos via the medium of the video sharing site. It is, he assures me, all the rage in primary school playgrounds.

Returning though for a minute to the issue of whether writers should be paid more residuals, of course where there are residuals then they should be entitled to part of them. If by exercising their creative muscles on the internet during their enforced rest period they have built up a trackable and accountable online following it will, ironically, only strengthen their bargaining hand when it comes to resolving the dispute. If, however, your strike skits are drawing but a few hundred views then this too might be an exposing moment for the true free market.

I doubt this has mollified the handful of outraged script writers, but it might stem the tide of angry mail - albeit extremely elegantly written.

Emily Bell is director of digital content, Guardian News and Media "

7 comments:

Far Away said...

oooo - is this a result?
" I doubt this has mollified the handful of outraged script writers, but it might stem the tide of angry mail - albeit extremely elegantly written."

- there's damning with faint praise...

Lucy said...

Nothing like backtracking and trying to start another debate to deflect it! Straight to YouTube??! WTF??? We were talking about the strike I thought and its morality. Emily Bell should be a politician.

Robin Kelly said...

Far, I'm taking any praise I can get, faint or not ;-) We changed her mind so I'm counting it as a result.

Lucy, I'm not exactly sure what she is saying. I think she's decided to make it harder to understand her point so no-one can disagree.

By the way every single South Park is going to be available on line for free - with advertising, natch.

Lucy said...

That sounds about right Robin, on both counts. Emily Bell is trying to claw back some semblance of respect but sadly does not realise we would all respect her more if she just said SORRY I WAS WRONG - not hard, hey?

Anonymous said...

Why isn't it apparent to her employer that this woman knows less than nothing about the field of digital content? She doesn't know what a residual is, she doesn't seem to understand YouTube's business model, and I'm not even convinced she knows what screenwriters do. How does she still have a job?

Anonymous said...

anon
she's probably not even aware that she's being discussed on blogs either....

Bingethink said...

If you hear Emily Bell speak (on the Media Guardian podcast, for example), you'll hear a very intelligent and informed commentator on media affairs and, specifically, on 21st century online/TV/print convergence. I bet she knows more about it than anyone on here.

But she comes from it from a (management) position within newspapers, where the underlying economic model is very different. It's not surprising she approaches the WGA dispute from a different perspective.

Yes, she got it all wrong-headed in her original column, but all credit to her for realising she did.