White Collar Criminals

WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA VS. OZZY AND SHARON OSBOURNE, ROUND 1

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Deadline Hollywood is reporting that the Writer’s Guild of America (or WGA, to you hep cats out there), the union for American film and television writers, has forbidden its members from working on Fox’s in-the-works Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne hosted variety show, The Osbournes: Senile and Incontinent.

An e-mail from the WGA to its members reads as follows:

“Fox has ordered a primetime comedy-variety show featuring Ozzy Osbourne and his family, and has engaged FremantleMedia North America, the company behind American Idol, to produce it. Because they wanted to hire WGA members to write the show, Fremantle contacted the WGAW [That’s the Writers Guild of America West, the west coast branch of the union. -Ed.] to see if we would agree to a sub-standard contract. Attempting to pay as little as possible to the writers on the show, Fremantle asked to treat it as “half-scripted” and pay greatly reduced writing fees to those writers who wrote skits, interview material, intros, and “outros.” Although all of the writing on the show is of a type traditionally covered by our MBA (in such shows as The Carol Burnett Show and Laugh-In), Fremantle wanted to treat certain portions of the show as “reality content,” not cover the writers who create it, and lower the compensation of the WGA-covered writers, arguing that they would only be responsible for writing part of the show.

“We refused to agree to such a deal because it would drastically undermine hard-won minimums and standards. While we have covered some shows produced by Fremantle, they insist that other shows, including American Idol, The Price is Right, and Million Dollar Password, do not have writers and should not be covered by a WGA contract.

“Now it is clear that Fremantle’s intention is to bring their low cost, non-union business model into traditional genres – first game shows, then comedy-variety. Soon, no WGA-covered writing will be safe from their aggressive undermining of our contract. We cannot allow this encroachment to continue.

“Accordingly, WGA East and West members may not write for the Osbourne variety show (working title: The Osbournes: Loud and Dangerous). Any members who perform writing services on that show do so at their own peril as they will be violating WGA Working Rule 8 and could be fined up to 100% of their compensation for that work. Both Guilds notified agents and other representatives of this development through an Action Alert issued yesterday.”

The letter then goes on to bitch slap Tyler Perry a little, ’cause he just fired four writers for attempting to unionize, before concluding:

“We believe that denying Fremantle and Tyler Perry members of the Writers Guilds East and West may convince them that they will be unable to produce professional quality entertainment content and that they will see the wisdom and creative advantages of signing a WGA contract.

“There is already far too much writing done in our business by men and women without WGA benefits. We cannot let writers of sitcoms and comedy-variety programming join their ranks, as we also work to reduce the amount of animation, reality, nonfiction, and other so-called “non-scripted” writing not covered by a WGA contract.

“Thanks for your attention and your continued support.

“Best,

“Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW

“Michael Winship
President, WGAE”

So, that’s obviously not cool. Trying to screw people who work for you out of a decent wage is just bullshit any way you cut it.

Now, in all fairness, the Osbournes may very well have had nothing to do with this decision – in fact, since Ozzy is becoming increasingly like the dude from Memento (e.g., he can remember shit from twenty years ago but can’t tell you what happened five minutes ago), I’m not even sure he knows he’s on television. And even if Sharon has a rep as a bull-buster, I’m sure she knows how to delegate and will pretty much work with whichever writers Fremantle brings her. So I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if the fault did not lie with metal’s First Couple.

That being said, I’m also damn sure someone on Team Osbourne learned of Fremantle’s little attempt at keeping the budget down the second this e-mail went out (Again, probably not Ozzy, because right now he’s just busy trying to remember why he came into this room.). So the correct thing to do now would be to a) raise hell with Fremantle, b) give the writers their proper due, and c) release some kind of statement to the Guild basically saying they had nothing to do with it and won’t stand for it.

Of course, this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. My guess is the Osbournes will decline to comment at this time and basically let Fremantle handle the situation… and then I’d guess that Fremantle will just hire scabs. Three cheers for labor.

I’d don’t know how much the Osbournes are being paid for this show; I’m trying to find out if it’s been published anywhere right now. But I’d wager that it’s more than enough to pay the writers what they’re worth, feed all the starving children in America, and still make the Osbournes even richer than they are now.

And that’s fucking depressing. I know that Ozzy doesn’t wanna change the world, but maybe he could just concentrate on being a decent human being for a little while.

-AR

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