Thursday, January 03, 2008

Now you say you're sorry, for being so untrue

As an alleged musician, Mike Huckabee pulled a particularly tone-deaf move Wed. night, crossing a union picket line to appear on "The Tonight Show", and play bass with Kevin Eubanks' band.

Earlier in the day, he claimed not to know he was crossing a picket line, and that he supported the striking WGA members:
"The governor would only agree to join Jay ... for the taping after he was assured that no replacement writers were being used," said a statement issued by Huckabee's campaign.

"Gov. Huckabee believes that the writers deserve to be fairly compensated for the sale of their work.

Smoooove, Mike. While my union, the AFM (American Federation of Musicians) issued no formal statement, the delusional Machinist's Union, who had endorsed Huckabee, said this:
Governor Huckabee should not cross the picket line. We have made that abundantly clear to his campaign. With such missteps, he risks losing the support his jobs and economic policies have won for him among trade unionists who will attend the GOP caucuses in Iowa or will vote in the later primaries.

Sorry, kidz. Huckabee may be hated by the Club for Growth for raising taxes in Arkansas, but he's no friend of working America.

Much can be said about the diminished power of the unions, and that leads in to the actual point of this post: the WGA strike.

First, here's the WGA on Huckabee's appearance on Leno:
The Writers Guild is disappointed that Mike Huckabee crossed the WGA picket line today at NBC. We welcome the statements of support he has made for striking writers, but we ask him to respect our picket lines in the future and urge the media conglomerates to return to the bargaining table to make a fair deal that will put writers and the entertainment industry back to work.

Was Huckabee legitimately confused? Nah, not so much. From the WGA blog:
However, when the reporters told Huckabee he was incorrect and the WGA had only made a separate deal with David Letterman's company - and not the Tonight Show - Huckabee pled ignorance: "But my understanding is there's a sort of dispensation given to the late-night shows, is that right?"

And when the reporters tried yet again to tell Huckabee he was flat out wrong? His response: "Hmmm. Oh."

Indeed. What the strike is about has been discussed many times. I think (and hope) all progressives, as well as people who work in the arts, support the writers in their bid to participate in potentially vast future profits from streaming internet broadcast, and other new forms of content distribution. But who exactly are the players on the other side, the AMPTP?

First, they are not producers at all. Instead, they are media conglomerates and studios who own content. This AMPTP site lists all signatory companies; among them are ALL film studios and networks, and in their own words:
member companies include the production entities of the studios, broadcast networks, certain cable networks and independent producers.

Here's an explanation of how the networks became "producers":
It started in 1995 when the Federal Communications Commission abolished its long-standing "finsyn" rules (that's financial interest and syndication, for those unfamiliar with the term), allowing networks for the first time to own the programs they broadcast. Before that, under classic antitrust definitions, the networks had been confined to the role of broadcaster, paying a license fee to production companies for the right to broadcast programs just two times. The production companies owned all subsequent rights. In the mid-1990s there were 40 independent production companies making television shows. If a particular network didn't like a show -- as famously happened with "The Cosby Show" many years ago -- the production company could take it to another network.

But not after 1995. The abolition of the old rules set in motion an ineluctable process, one that has negatively affected every creative person I know in television. Today there are zero independent production companies making scripted television. They were all forced out of business by the networks' insistence -- following the FCC's fin-syn ruling -- on owning part or all of every program they broadcast.

This is a must-read article, especially for anyone who is still confused by why the "producers" and the writers can't just get along.

Finally, as a retort to poor confused Mike Huckabee, here are three more versions of the title song. Which do you think is the best?

Julie London, the original, featuring Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Leatherwood on bass at the top, or Ella, with guitarist Joe Pass:

Lulu, with guitarist Jeff Beck(!):

and Diana Krall: