Politics, Policy Year-End Wrap-Up
As the Guild tallies electoral wins and policy initiatives, the forecast for 2013 looks good -- with more work to
be done.

By Ellen Stutzman, Director of Research and Public Policy, and John Vezina, Political Director

(December 7, 2012) 

(L-R) Dan Wilcox, Chris Keyser, Carl Gottlieb, Carleton Eastlake, Linda Burstyn, Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin, Thania St. John, Alfredo Barrios, Michael Oates Palmer  

Election Day 2012 represented another step forward for the WGAW’s political and public policy work on behalf of writers. Of the 21 candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives endorsed by the WGAW PAC, 19 were successful in their bids for elective office. Additionally, California Proposition 32, on which the PAC recommended a “no” vote, was defeated. As the Guild continues to work on legislative and regulatory issues that affect the creative and economic interests of WGAW members, we have a growing list of allies to work with.

Because most issues affecting writers are heard in the Commerce and Judiciary committees, the PAC is particularly pleased with the reelection of WGAW-endorsed Senators Bill Nelson and Claire McCaskill and Representatives Henry Waxman, Lois Capps, and Tammy Baldwin (now senator-elect). Their proven track records supporting issues such as Net Neutrality and media competition, combined with new relationships with members of the next Congress, ensure a continuing dialogue on issues of importance to writers.

The 12-person PAC, composed of ten WGAW members and two WGAW staff, not only reviewed questionnaires completed by candidates seeking endorsement, but also talked with many of the candidates, either in person or by telephone. Additionally, Senators Sherrod Brown and Debbie Stabenow, and Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Henry Waxman, met informally with members at receptions hosted by the Guild.

PAC contributions, funded entirely by voluntary donations from members, create opportunities for policy discussions with elected officials and candidates that would not otherwise exist. During campaigns, candidates seeking endorsements and contributions meet with individuals and organizations to discuss issues they may not usually consider. The WGAW PAC provides an opportunity to educate candidates about what is important to Guild members so that when elected, they are knowledgeable and supportive of WGAW priorities.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (center) with WGAW Board members (L-R) Linda Burstyn, Marjorie David, Thania St. John, Michael Oates Palmer, Carl Gottlieb, Carleton Eastlake and Alfredo Barrios Jr.  

The relationship-building enabled by the PAC comes as the WGAW has increased its involvement on number of legislative and regulatory issues, including:

  • Broadband Competition: Net Neutrality has been a top priority for the WGAW in recent years. Media consolidation has limited opportunities for writers in traditional media, making it critical that we protect an open and competitive Internet. The WGAW worked with senators to defeat an attempt to repeal Net Neutrality protections put in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In addition, we have advocated in Congress and at the FCC for investigation into bandwidth caps that limit the ability of consumers to watch online video. Ensuring sufficient access to online video is essential to the development of new opportunities for writers.
  • Media Consolidation and Competition: While the hundreds of companies that once operated in Hollywood have consolidated into a handful of corporations, the Guild continues to look for opportunities to improve the competitive landscape of the entertainment industry. In 2012, to increase competition, we advocated against any weakening of media cross-ownership rules and urged the FCC to expand its definition of a television distributor.
  • Copyright Protection: The WGAW opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) because of the bill’s broad-reaching implications for Net Neutrality and freedom of speech. We continue to look for ways to limit copyright infringement.
  • Wireless Competition: The rise of tablets has increased consumer demand for mobile video. A robust wireless broadband market would provide competition with wired broadband delivered to the home. The WGAW has advocated against consolidation in the wireless industry, including opposition of the proposed AT&T – T-Mobile merger and the transaction between Verizon and some of the nation’s largest cable providers. These transactions have made it clear that the major wireless companies would like to consolidate to limit competition. To promote more wireless competition, we are advocating limits on the amount of spectrum any one company can hold.

While our public policy work is going well and the 113th Congress means even stronger support for writers, our work is not yet done. Those who seek both to own the Internet and control writers’ ability to get their work to the public are talking with members of Congress and federal officials about the same issues. By supporting the WGAW PAC and the Guild’s public policy work, you ensure your voices are heard and your interests represented.