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Say What, Say Huh? New York Post Writer Thinks Unions Killed Soaps

Well this is just ridonk. New York Post blogger Kyle Smith is laying the blame for the decline of the American soap opera at the feet of unions like the WGA and AFTRA.


Whenever a business is bleeding, there’s often a union holding a bloody knife and a dazed “Who, me?” expression — like 6-year-old Michael Myers in “Halloween.”

According to Smith's faulty logic, the soaps have been unable to successfully cut costs because of union minimums. Uh, yeah, sorry, but the daytime soap opera industry has been very successful in slashing the salaries of actors, directors and writers for the past few years with union busting tactics. I know because I reported on it first. While he does have a couple of quotes from the fab Robin Strasser talking about the cuts, Smith totally minimizes the effects of those cost-cutting measures.

In November of 2008, employees of ABC Daytime were informed of massive, accross the board pay cuts. When I reported on this, it was quickly denied to the soap magazines. Days later, Agnes Nixon, creator of All My Children and One Life to Live, confirmed the pay cuts in an Advertising Age article.

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Similar pay cuts have happened at every soap. The same month that I broke the ABC Daytime paycuts, NBC's Days of Our Lives fired the majority of its top tier stars, including soap superstar Diedre Hall,  because the soap's budget had to be cut by 40 percent. Guiding Light's budget was slashed so much it had to go to bare bones production model that tanked that 72-year-old serial in 2009. As The World Turns pretty much followed suit. 

Did Smith, in his mad rush to write an anti-union piece, even bother to do a bit of research to learn that ABC went to  the WGA last year to allow them to cut writer guarantees so that they could air re-runs? Yeah, I broke that one too, but not reading my little blog is no excuse, since Deadline picked up the story. While the WGA stood firm, asking ABC to honor their Minimum Basic Agreement, ABC went right ahead and cut the script orders anyway, only to scrap the "cost-saving" re-runs because they were tanking in the ratings.

Of course in the piece, Smith reports on soap head writers being paid a minimum of $35,345 a week, to make people gasp at the horrors of it all. But let's remember, these people, good, bad, or Dena Higley, are still responsible for putting out 52 weeks of television a year. One of Shonda Rhimes' farts is worth more than the salary of the highest paid soap scribe, and she only has to oversee a couple of 22-week serials.

Besides, we aren't just talking head writers, we're talking script and breakdown writers, many of whom are working for scale or are being forced to take half deals, while their bosses still make king and queen ransoms. I know of one head writer who flat out refuses to take pay cuts, while getting his or her staff to tell the WGA they're willing to work for minimums or else be fired. We're also talking about some actors who are making $1,000 an episode, and are only guaranteed 1.5 episodes a week. You try living in L.A. or New York on that, plus paying an agent, manager, publicist, etc. Not everyone in daytime is paid like Eric Braeden or...Rebecca Budig.

The unions help to make sure these people get the benefits they deserve for churning out television that helps make people like Bob Iger and Les Moonves net salaries like these, so gimme a freakin' break, Smith! I bet you Brian Frons isn't making the salary of an entry level TV executive, but many of the veteran performers, directors and writers on the soaps he micromanaged into oblivion are. Oh, and the whole "reality performers are cheaper" logic is getting to be a bit of a stretch when Snooki is making six figures per episode.