Warner Bros. Discovery CEO brutally heckled during Boston U. commencement speech: ‘Pay your writers!’

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav discovered the hard way that writers should be valued.

From the moment he took the Nickerson Field stage to deliver his Boston University 2023 commencement speech on Sunday, the media executive was hit with the verbal equivalent of exploding rotten tomatoes, as hecklers in the crowd reportedly yelled, “Shut up, Zaslav,” and “We don’t want you here.”

The taunts forced Zaslav to repeatedly pause during his 20-minute speech, interrupting his words of advice for the graduating class.

At about the halfway mark, as Zaslav was opining on the importance of getting along with colleagues who hold differing viewpoints, the random jeers turned into one loud, unified chant: “Pay your writers!”

“Some people will be looking for a fight,” Zaslav eventually said. “But don’t be the one they find it with. Focus on good people’s qualities.”

Angry activists, including those from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE) — the “union behind the entertainment industry” —  turned out in droves in support of the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike.

On May 2, the thousands of writers represented by the WGA put their pens down and picked up picket signs.

“Driven in large part by the shift to streaming, writers are finding their work devalued in every part of the business,” the WGA states. “The companies have used the transition to streaming to cut writer pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels.”

According to the union, “On TV staffs, more writers are working at minimum regardless of experience, often for fewer weeks, or in mini-rooms, while showrunners are left without a writing staff to complete the season. And while series budgets have soared over the past decade, median writer-producer pay has fallen.”

“In comedy-variety,” the WGA continues, “writers working for streaming services—which are now the primary platforms for entertainment content—lack the most basic protection of MBA [Minimum Basic Agreement] minimums.”

Ahead of the WGA’s deadline to reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb pledged his support for the writers.

“IATSE supports the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) in their collective fight to win a fair contract from Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on behalf of the talented workers they represent,” Loeb said in an April 25th statement. “The motion picture and television industry thrives on the creativity, skill, and labor of every worker involved, and writers’ contributions are an important part of the success of the films, television shows, and other media IATSE members work on.”

“We recognize and support our fellow entertainment workers in their mission to negotiate an agreement that addresses their issues from the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media-mega corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars,” he added.

Loeb called the AMPTP’s residence to WGA concerns “familiar” and called on the AMPTP to “immediately acknowledge the contributions of these talented and dedicated professionals and negotiate with their unions in good faith.”

As the WGA strike continues to leave most late-night “comedians” without a single thing to say, Loeb’s IATSE is clearly following his words of solidarity with a show of force.

The group even flew a banner over the Boston University event that read, “David Zaslav — Pay your writers!”

On Twitter, Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) showed his support for the striking writers.

“If Warner Bros Discovery can afford to pay its CEO David Zaslav $286 million in compensation over the past 2 years, it can afford to pay its writers much better wages and benefits,” Sanders tweeted. “Mr. Zaslav: Listen to the Boston University students and the Writers Guild. Pay your writers.”

Melissa Fine


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