Too Much TV: Your TV Talking Points For Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023
With no identified sources comes responsibility
Here's everything you need to know about the world of television for Tuesday, March 21st, 2023.
WITH NO IDENTIFIED SOURCES COMES RESPONSIBILITY
It is nearly impossible to be a journalist who writes about difficult subjects without sometimes having to use unidentified sources. People aren't authorized to speak on the record, they want to leak out some important piece of news or maybe they just want to settle a score in public. As a journalist, it's fine to use unidentified sources. But it's also your responsibility to use them in an ethical and honest way. If someone is giving you news that tends to be positive for one side of the story, whenever possible a journalist should at least give a rough indication of where the news tip originated. That's why when I pass along news or comments from unidentified sources, I always try and give an indication of the source's point of view - i.e. where they work or the part of the industry where they are employed.
A journalist can get into trouble when they don't follow that approach and there is no better example of the dangers this week than the Variety piece "WGA Would Allow Artificial Intelligence in Scriptwriting, as Long as Writers Maintain Credit," which posted late Tuesday evening.
It's written by Gene Maddaus, who has published at least eight different WGA-related pieces in the past two weeks. According to the article, when negotiations between The Writer's Guild Of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) began on Monday, one of the subjects brought up by the WGA representatives was developing guidelines on using AI to assist in the writing of scripts:
The Writers Guild of America has proposed allowing artificial intelligence to write scripts, as long as it does not affect writers’ credits or residuals.
The guild had previously indicated that it would propose regulating the use of AI in the writing process, which has recently surfaced as a concern for writers who fear losing out on jobs.
But contrary to some expectations, the guild is not proposing an outright ban on the use of AI technology.
Instead, the proposal would allow a writer to use ChatGPT to help write a script without having to share writing credit or divide residuals. Or, a studio executive could hand the writer an AI-generated script to rewrite or polish and the writer would still be considered the first writer on the project.
From the beginning, this seemed like an odd story. Given all of the real issues facing the industry, "we want to be able to use AI to wrote scripts" was a surprising direction to take. In fact, it was hard to imagine that anyone at the WGA would have made the proposal. At least, not the way it was framed in the Variety piece. Despite the claim that the story had been verified by three people, the wording of the disclaimer made me suspect that all three people had some connection to AMPTP. Especially since the organization has been known to leak carefully placed stories as a way of shifting public opinion. That suspicion is reinforced by the framing of the WGA as greedy writers whose love of credit and money overrides their concerns about technology such as AI.
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The WGA typically is in a news blackout during negotiations, so it's an indication of the rapidness the AI writing spread on social media that the union felt it necessary to issue a statement rebutting the framing of the story. And while the statement didn't say so, the implication was that either the sources for the Variety purposefully mischaracterized the proposal or that Maddaus got the story wrong:
The WGA’s proposal to regulate use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies ensures the Companies can’t use AI to undermine writers’ working standards including compensation, residuals, separated rights and credits.
AI can’t be used as source material, to create MBA-covered writing or rewrite MBA-covered work, and AI-generated text cannot be considered in determining writing credits.
Our proposal is that writers may not be assigned AI-generated material to adapt, nor may AI software generate covered literary material.
In the same way that a studio may point to a Wikipedia article, or other research material, and ask the writer to refer to it, they can make the writer aware of AI-generated content.
But, like all research material, it has no role in guild-covered work, nor in the chain of title in the intellectual property. It is important to note that AI software does not create anything. It generates a regurgitation of what it's fed.
If it's been fed both copyright-protected and public domain content, it cannot distinguish between the two. Its output is not eligible for copyright protection, nor can an AI software program sign a certificate of authorship.
To the contrary, plagiarism is a feature of the AI process.
And that is not at all what the Variety piece reported. All of this is a good reminder that as a strike vote approaches, you are going to read a lot of stories about the negotiations that are either ill-informed or purposefully inaccurate. I am going to try and continue to wade through them in this newsletter, but my advice is to doubt everything unless you see it confirmed several other places.
WHIP MEDIA STREAMING ORIGINALS REPORT
SPEAKING OF STORIES ABOUT AI WRITING SCRIPTS
A shout-out to The Verge, which managed to pivot its story on the issue as quickly as possible. The outlet first wrote a story referencing the Variety piece, and it's an example of peak entertainment news aggregation. But when the WGA issues its statement, the Verge changed the headline, added an entirely different story on top of the original, but kept the url the same for SEO purposes. Unfortunately, someone there forgot change the original story blurb, which now doesn't quite match the new headline:
There is something weirdly poetic about reading a poorly-written story about writers.
TWEET OF THE DAY
ODDS AND SODS
* Neil Patrick Harris is set to return as Barney in the How I Met Your Father mid-season finale, which will premiere on Tuesday, March 28th.
* Eva Longoria's production company plans to produce a Spanish-speaking Americas version of the hit French series Call My Agent!.
WHAT'S NEW FOR WEDNESDAY:
Digman! Series Premiere (Comedy Central)
Invisible City (Netflix)
The Kingdom (El Reino) (Netflix)
Trafficked With Mariana van Zeller Season Finale (NatGeo) - [Q&A: Mariana van Zeller]
Waco: American Apocalypse (Netflix)
Click Here to see the list of all of the upcoming premiere dates for the next few months.
SEE YOU THURSDAY!
If you have any feedback, send it along to Rick@AllYourScreens.com and follow me on Twitter @aysrick.