Today, over 160,000 performers, who are members of the United States trade union SAG-AFTRA, have commenced strike action. Writers in the WGA have also been striking since May 2023, both against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
In a time where misinformation is spreading more than ever online, important pieces of context missing, and unsubstantiated sourced quotes from anonymous studio executives and producers. Let’s look at how the major online trades been covering these strikes recently. Are they leaning in favour of studios?
There’s one corporation that owns a majority of the trades, that are constantly spread and talked about across social media, and that’s Penske Media Corporation. To name a few among many that Penske has monopolized:
The Hollywood Reporter
The chairman and CEO sitting at the top of Penske Media is Jay Penske; this billionaire media and publishing entrepeneur is also a member of the AMPTP, that the actors and writers are striking against.
Recently, Deadline wrote a since deleted tweet; covering what actor Matt Damon had to say about the strike, while he was at the London premiere, promoting Oppenheimer. This publication had left half of Damon’s intentions out, that misled some people into thinking the actor did not support the strike.
After being ‘called out’ by Twitter’s community notes and their audience, hours later they decided to delete this and apologize to the actor, while also adding Matt Damon’s quote, where the actor supports the strike.
This was the original deleted tweet:
This fear-baiting Deadline article quotes a Los Angeles based producer with the headline titled ‘Hollywood Post Producer Compares Possible Actors Strike To Pandemic: “What We Went Through Will Be Nothing Compared To Hardship We Will Experience”’ It promote extreme anti-union views, especially with the last part of the article encouraging SAG not to strike.
“Make no mistake, if the WGA strike continues and SAG joins them next week, what we all went through last time will be nothing compared to the hardship we will experience this time around. Our government won’t be there to help us with extended benefits or loans. We will be on our own, and our industry as we know and love will be changed forever and not for the good.”Says some anonymous Los Angeles producer in this Deadline article.
A Deadline article, published an article on July 11; with a headline titled ‘Hollywood Studios’ WGA Strike Endgame Is To Let Writers Go Broke Before Resuming Talks In Fall‘. This article was using quotes from some anonymous studio exec or producer, that gave a cruel statemement about their plan to drag the strike out so far that ‘union members lose their apartments and houses’.
As soon as this was published, it riled up union members and a lot of other people that’s been following the strike. These threats only seemed to strengthen their stance about why they are striking in the first place: better pay and higher residuals, improved health care protection and full protection against A.I and better working environments.
Deadline also included a quote from AMPTP, in this same article, that seemingly does not back up their own anonymous sources.
“These anonymous people are not speaking on behalf of the AMPTP or member companies, who are committed to reaching a deal and getting our industry back to work”A spokesperson for AMPTP
The Hollywood Reporter covered an article on July 13; this time in support of WGA strikes titled ‘Anonymous Strike Diary: “Our Souls Were Cracking … but Then the AMPTP F***ed Up”’.
This article in particular is where anonymous Hollywood writers are given a platform to share their own view of the situation. Seemingly, offering a different perspective about the strike. THR also referenced and shamed what was said by whoever was quoted in the Deadline article, previously discussed.
THR also published an article favouring a statement from actor George Clooney, who backs the strikes.
At the beginning of July, 13 days before the actors strike began, Indiewire wrote an article called ‘The Secret Power of SAG: How 160,000 Actors Can Help Save Hollywood by Forcing Studios to Break Rank‘. The article appears to be in detailed support of the strike, covering actors losing out on health insurance and there is also an opposite side to the implications of strikes, where film crews and other workers may lose jobs.
In Variety’s recent article, also from July 13 titled ‘What SAG-AFTRA Strike Means for Summer Productions, Fall Premieres, Comic-Con and Q2 Earnings’. Variety writes about how the strike will affect studios:
‘This will further hurt the networks and streamers, who are relying on their pipeline of already completed shows to fill out their release schedules for the remainder of the year. Now they will have no hope of completing any productions until both strikes are resolved. That leads to the mega media corps that own all these entities having a rough Q2 earnings season ahead.’
Variety’s article appears to be clear about its intent, by covering how it’s affecting the industry. However, there are some sympathetic sentences, that may victimize the studios such as this quote seen above ‘This will further hurt the networks and streamers’, ‘the actors strike will complicate things even further’, instead of a sentence like this, ‘AMPTP will complicate things further by not agreeing to meet SAG-AFTRA’s demands, which would lead to a strike alongside writers’.
On their social media, there was misleading information about what actors can and can’t do, essentially making it seem like actors were having their freedoms taken away. This caused many to react, including actor Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) who quote tweeted the issue:
Variety did also cover a different article about the double strike, AMPTP and their ‘groundbreaking’ proposals which SAG-AFTRA declined.
Although, Variety mentions one of the issues that actors are facing is AI; they don’t include what AMPTP’s proposal actually involves for A.I. THR did include the full context from union cheif Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, in a recent article.
The protection deal; where the studios digitally scan in background performers’ likeness, earns that person a 1-day rate of around $100 – 200, then these studios can use their likeness forever in content without them earning any further compensation/residuals from it. These performers won’t know they are in a project until they stumble upon it, because they won’t get informed when their likeness is being used by studios.
At @25:25 in the video, SAG-AFTRA discuss AMPTP’s A.I proposal and more.
How about trade publications that are not under Penske Media?
Condé Nast is also a media corporation, owned by Roger Lynch, it’s unclear if this CEO is an AMPTP member, some of the publications under this corporation includes:
- Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair and Wired are the publications that reports on this type of news, as the rest focus on fashion centric topics.
Wired’s most recent article titled The Hollywood Actors Strike Will Revolutionize the AI Fight gives a sense solidarity to those on strike and discusses mainly about A.I. ‘Hollywood’s glitzy stars taking a stand to keep AI in check feels like a turning point’.
Vanity Fair covered a new article called Actors Strike Is On, Throwing Hollywood Into Turmoil, exploring both arguements by also commenting that the Guild’s president, Fran Drechner gave a passionate speech at the conference and Vanity Fair also included AMPTP’s counter statements, creating a clear and balanced article.
Although, Vanity Fair delivers a very bleak view for what will be affecting the press, those on strike and the rest of the entertainment industry, with everything in their dramatic article titled ‘Inside the Actors Strike Press Apocalypse: “The Celebrity Factory Has Shut Down“‘
The BBC (owned by Richard Sharp) has been making individual articles about why actors are concerned about their futures, again relating to A.I. This article discusses the pros and cons of using this in the entertainment industry, not only for the US, but also for the UK and the rest of the world. Also, the projects that will be affected now the strike has begun.
KABC Television’s ABC7 news outlet, that is owned by the Walt Disney Company published a recent article called ‘Strikes by Hollywood writers, actors causing collateral damage to SoCal small businesses‘. This is putting the blame on writers and actors for striking, claiming they are damaging profits of SoCal businesses.
All under Penske Media and Condé Nast and many others, there are articles from these publications that could be seen as anti-union, or looking to spread a scare-tactic narrative, especially with how they title their articles as well, taking pieces out of context to promote on social media, this also leads to get a quick reaction out of people and spreads misinformation.
There also are also plenty of articles under this corporation, that have a neutral observation of the strike, and a few that imply a great deal of support for those WGA & SAG-AFTRA dealing with being overworked, underpaid and their likeness and written works exploited and stolen by generative A.I.
This article isn’t a complete picture of every trade that exists, there are still many other prominent trades that have been covering these strikes. It’s only based on the outlets covered here. It’s at your own discretion to judge whether these sites are trustworthy on this subject matter.