THE BLOG
12/08/2007 12:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

WGA Strike Primer: Merry Christmas from Your Friends at the AMPTP

On Friday, the multinational corporations of the AMPTP broke off negotiations with the Writers Guild. For those watching events, interested in where things stand, let's recap:

1. The AMPTP offer for Internet streaming is $252.94. Unchanged. Well, actually, that's only for hour-long TV shows. Half-hour programs would get $139.15. To be fair, that's not really the offer. If the corporations themselves decide that these reruns are "promotional," then the writers get zero. (In dollar terms that's $0.00.)

2. The AMPTP corporations offer for original content written for the Internet is zero ($0.00). Unchanged. Mathematically you could say that they quadrupled their previous offer, since zero times four is still zero.

3. The AMPTP corporations offer is to pay 1/3 of a penny for each dollar royalty downloading videos. Unchanged. There is a rumor that they also offered to add a lump of coal, but the rumor isn't true.

4. The AMPTP gave an ultimatum that unless writers dropped several issues without the corporations giving anything in return, they would not even negotiate. This is known among circus folk as "demanding that someone negotiate with themselves." It's considered a Really Bad Thing by most people. It's considered a really stupid thing by the rest.

5. And then the executives from the AMPTP called off negotiations and walked out. There is no record of whether anyone said, "And to all a good night," as they departed.

Several things must be noted out of fairness to the AMPTP -

The AMPTP position is that what the Writers Guild is trying to negotiate for is horribly unfair. That the Writers Guild is trying to take over the entire Internet, somewhat like Mordor ruling Middle Earth. That the Writers Guild wants to force reluctant animation writers and reality TV writers into accepting health care, pensions and residuals against their will. That the Writers Guild are greedy little piggies who wear fancy scarves and can actually afford gasoline for their Rolls-Royces, which are given to every member free.

Let's assume that's all true.

The AMPTP corporations' offer is still: $252.94 for Internet streaming. Zero if they call it "promotion." Zero for original content. 1/3 of a cent per dollar for Internet downloads. 4 cents for every DVD sold. Still.

You just can't dance around that sinkhole.

Most people grasp that this is a shameful offer. Most people grasp that the Internet is not a new-fangled invention.

(Note: Time magazine named Jeff Bezos its Man of the Year for founding Amazon.com in 1999. That's nine years ago. Making big money on the Internet is not a new thing.)

Still, you have to admire Major Corporate leaders trying to convince anyone that others are rich, little piggies. Last year - last year alone - Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone made $56 million. News Corp. president Peter Chernin made $34 million. News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch got $26 million. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves received $25 million. Last year. It gets worse - former Viacom CEO Tom Freston made $80 million just for being fired! It gets worser. When Michael Ovitz got fired from Disney after a measly 14 months on the job...he got $130 million.

Maybe that should be the Writers Guild strategy. They should just get fired.

Executives of the AMPTP (General Electric, Sony, Time-Warner, News Corp...) actually want to paint others as greedy. They like to throw out big numbers about "average salary."

Average salary. Last year, Sumner Redstone and I together had an average salary of just over $28 million. Cool.

The AMPTP corporations - international competitors negotiating as one entity - will now be putting out how wonderful and decent and put-upon they are, and how grubbing the sniveling writers are. And how evil WGA leaders are. Watch.

Keep in mind that these are the same people who fought James Garner in court for six years trying to insist that The Rockford Files had never made a profit in 16 years of first-run and syndication. So, you have to ponder just a wee bit about the AMPTP corporations' ability to tell the truth. And hide money.

The AMPTP corporations effort is now out of the Republican playbook (The "L" word, the "Democrat" Party). They have already begun referring to the WGA negotiators as Writers Guild "organizers." Oooo, shiver me timbers.

It's like the rule for lawyers - when you have neither the law or facts on your side, pound on the table and holler.

But then, when polls show that 63% of the public support the writers, and only 4% support the AMPTP corporations, sometimes all you can do is pound on the table and holler. The problem is that when you've walked away from the table, you have nothing to pound on.

Should anybody not in the Writers Guild care about this? Care whether the AMPTP corporations are willing to pay more than zero - or simply negotiate? No, not really all that much.

Honestly, it only matters if you're in the Screen Actors Guild or Directors Guild. Or a craft union. Or IATSE. Or Teamsters, since pension payments are tied by formula to residuals. Or if you work on a TV series or movie that's been shut down. Or if you've been laid off by the very network corporation which walked away from negotiating. Or if your business happens to service the entertainment industry. Or your business is impacted by economics in Los Angeles. Or you work in any union in America., where employers watch other industries. Or if you are part of the middle class being squeezed out of existence by wealthy corporate interests. Or care about fairness. Because you know you'll likely be next.

Other than that, no.

The multinational corporations left the negotiating table before Christmas. Watching them try to defend their greed and actions won't be very interesting. What will be interesting, though, is to see whether or not they are visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

Bah, humbug.

Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.