Activist Albers Elected WGA East Prez

Chris Albers, a writer with Late Night with Conan O'Brien, is now king of all writers (OK, only president), and that could mean good news for news and reality scribes.

Albers has been elected president of the Writers Guild of America, East, which comprises almost 4,000 network radio and TV writers.

Tom Fontana (St. Elsewhere, Homicide, Oz), was elected VP, and Gail Lee, of CBS Radio, secretary-treasurer. In fact a slate of 9 activist candidates (though Lee was not one of them) banded together as WGAEmpowered, and all were elected or re-elected.

What does that mean?

It probably means a more activist guild on issues like reality TV pay and getting together with the WGA West.

Albers, as chairman of the union finance committee, spearheaded an effort to devote between a third and a half of its revenue to organizing, which includes "every writing job in basic cable, reality TV and animation."

The disparity between reality and other writers has become a hot topic and the subject of lawsuits against some of the networks.

Alber also plans to organize more news writers and writers for content on the Internet.  "Everything you’ve written and everything you write in the future will soon be available over the Internet, " Albers told the members, "but most of our contracts still only represent traditional media."

"Why are there still two WGA unions?" he asked in his campaign statement. "Because the West refuses to stand up for writers they consider less sexy, like the East’s hundreds of news writers. There is no merger on the table right now and there never will be until we know that every news writer, daytime writer, animation writer, and comedy/variety writer has the same protection as our most successful TV and film writers. 

"As a comedy/variety writer for Conan O’Brien (and previously for Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and David Letterman) I’ve seen how a smaller group’s issues can be overlooked." 

Secretary-treasurer Lee certainly has a rooting interest in the efficacy of union leadership. WGAE news writers have been working without a contract at CBS since April 1, and the result has included some protests and shots at CBS brass.

Albers probably hopes his winning streak continues through the weekend. He was headed for L.A. Friday, nominated for an Emmy.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.