WGA West Calls For Government Regulation Of “Anti-Competitive Practices” Of Disney, Amazon & Netflix


In a shot across the bow of the giant media companies that it’s negotiating with to end its 108-day-old strike, the WGA West released a report today that calls for more government regulation of what it calls the “anti-competitive practices” of Disney, Amazon and Netflix, which it accuses of “abusing their dominance to further disadvantage competitors, raise prices for consumers, and push down wages for the creative workforce.”

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The executive summary of the report, called “The New Gatekeepers: How Disney, Amazon, and Netflix Will Take Over Media,” contends that “Without intervention, these conglomerates will seize control of the media landscape and the streaming era’s advances for creativity and choice will be lost. These new gatekeepers have amassed market power through mergers and other anti-competitive practices, offering an alarming window into the future of media.”

See the full report here.

The guild, which has been on strike since May 2, has been exchanging proposals for a new contract over the past week with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that could eventually end the strike.

“Writers being forced to strike in this climate should come as a surprise to no one,” said WGA West Research & Public Policy Director Laura Blum-Smith. “We’re transitioning from a period of rapid investment and competition that brought about new and diverse content to a monopolistic model that will concentrate control over entertainment programming in the hands of just a few large and powerful corporations. For writers, that means fewer buyers for their work, employers who exert more leverage in individual deal negotiations, and depressed pay and working conditions.”

According to the report:

• Disney has grown through a series of multibillion-dollar acquisitions, using its power to reduce film output, shut down competing studios, foreclose independent content from its distribution networks, expand control of the labor market, and force creators to give up financial participation in future licensing revenue.

• Amazon has gained a sizeable footprint in media in a short time by utilizing the well-documented playbook critical to its ascendance as a tech company. Though anticompetitive behavior and vertical integration, Amazon has harmed competitors, privileged its related business, and abused employer leverage to underpay writers.

• Netflix was once an innovative competitor, but is now using its position as the largest streaming service in the world to abuse its leverage as an employer, decrease innovative content spending and raise prices for consumers. The company has cut out independent producers and severely underpaid writers in multiple areas, and a series of recent acquisitions signal its intent to further increase dominance and market power in order to reduce innovative content investment.

“Streaming video is now the dominant distribution platform for content,” the report says, “but it is largely unregulated, taking the problems of vertical integration and media consolidation to the extreme. Streaming’s dominant employers have used their leverage to erode the sustainability of writing work; further consolidation could result in fewer writers able to earn a living and diminished variety in the marketplace of ideas.”

Calling for more regulation, the guild says that “It is crucial that antitrust agencies and lawmakers take the following actions to protect the future of media:

  • Block further consolidation;
  • Proactively investigate anti-competitive issues and outcomes; and
  • Increase regulation and oversight in streaming.

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