Internet issues presented on Capitol Hill

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Television and new media writers take to the hill for briefing on internet-related issue

WGAE Members Discuss The Impact of Net Neutrality, Internet Piracy On Their Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), led by WGAE President Michael Winship and Executive Director Lowell Peterson, went to Capitol Hill today to hold a special briefing on the Internet. The television, news, and web writers addressed the vital importance of net neutrality and its impact on their ability to create, distribute and monetize their work.

Participating in the briefing were: WGAE President Michael Winship (senior writing fellow at public policy research and advocacy organization Demos; former senior writer for Bill Moyers Journal), WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson, Tom Ruprecht (former staff writer for the Late Show with David Letterman, writer on How I Met Your Mother, and author of George W. Bush: An Unauthorized Oral History), Daryn Strauss (creator of the critically acclaimed web series Downsized and founder of DigitalChickTv.com, the foremost hub for women-driven projects in new media), Thom Woodley (web video pioneer and founder of Dinosaur Diorama, web video company programming television-quality independent content), Julie Ann Emery (creator, director, and executive producer of the award-winning web series Then We Got Help!), Thomas Poarch (co-creator, writer, and producer of the soon-to-premier web series Brosephs), Michael Kantor (director, producer, and writer of the PBS documentary Broadway: The American Musical and co-writer/producer of Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America), Gina Gionfriddo (playwright of Becky Shaw, television writer for shows including Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Cold Case, and current WGAE Council Member) and Duane Tollison (newswriter for CBS Radio Network and current WGAE Council Member).

At the outset of the briefing, the WGAE reinforced its key positions: The WGAE supports net neutrality; the WGAE opposes Internet piracy; the WGAE does not believe an open Internet will encourage piracy, and the WGAE strongly supports Senator Leahy’s PROTECT IP Act. “A free and open Internet presents infinite possibilities not only for content creators but for a fully informed, inspired and entertained citizenry, as well, offering a vast variety of options far beyond what is currently available on television, radio and in movie theaters,” said WGAE President Michael Winship. “It is critical that the potential of the Internet and other digital media – their diversity, accessibility, competitiveness and imagination – not be stifled by multinational corporate behemoths that would restrict access for their own commercial use.” The Guild’s positions were also reiterated by Guild members and representatives at the two-hour briefing in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room. Some of their insights and experiences included:

“The Internet offers creators the opportunity to present great stories directly to audiences; to explore issues that matter to people using new and interesting formats; to develop new models for creating content and doing business. We need net neutrality to allow this innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish, to avoid barriers set by megacorporations that need huge audiences and predictable programming to ensure big returns,” explained WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson.

"The Internet remains a true meritocracy. A video becomes popular because it’s entertaining, not because Sony’s boardroom decided to shove it into 3,000 theaters. Every weekend, Hollywood knows going in which movie is going to be #1. None of us has any idea what Internet video is going to be popular next week. That’s a good thing,” said Tom Ruprecht. “Residual payments from my past TV work support me in between jobs. I don't know how I'd subsist in this business without them. When people pirate my shows it actually takes money out of my pocket – not just out of the network’s,” said Gina Gionfriddo when explaining how online piracy has a direct impact on Guild members by reducing DVD sales and legal downloads.

“My show, Downsized, depicts stories of people often ignored by corporate media: the unemployed, the endangered middle class, the small business owners, the immigrants, and women in leadership roles. If not for the freedom of an open Internet, this show, which was produced and distributed entirely independently and has become one of the most acclaimed web shows, might never have been seen,” said Daryn Strauss, stressing how the Internet allows her and others to reach underrepresented communities and address issues not often tackled by the media conglomerates.

“Everyone gives lip service to the idea that no matter what the delivery system, content is king, but it’s really not true. If you cannot find the content, then it is useless. If we don’t ensure that there is equal access to all the material on the Internet, then very quickly the best sources are buried behind search engine preferences, paid-for boxes that direct you somewhere else, and all the rest. I think it’s your job to insure that the Internet and wireless communications offer equal access to all,” concluded Michael Kantor.

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO, is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media, and broadcast news. The WGAE conducts programs, seminars, and events on issues of interest to, and on behalf of, writers. In addition, it represents writers’ interests on the legislative level. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit www.wgaeast.org.


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