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Unions Burst TV's Soap Bubble

While Atlas Shrugged's critics have compared the movie to long-canceled '80s nighttime soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty, in the New York Post, Kyle Smith writes that unions and declining (read: aging) demographics are putting a stranglehold on television's remaining daytime soaps:

Soaps still have fans — category leader “The Young and the Restless” reels in about 4.6 million viewers — but the speed with which the soap audience has been both shrinking and aging has caught the networks by surprise. In recent years, says Strasser, “We were told we were safe.” In 2009, “All My Children” moved from New York to Los Angeles to save on set costs and “One Life to Live” took over the “All My Children” production space on West 66th Street.

Says Strasser, “People pulled up roots, took their kids out of school with the valiant belief that it was being handled.” Everyone settled in, figuring the network wouldn’t move two patients it intended to smother — which it did less than two years later.

Are the soaps like the US textile industry — doomed to be killed by cheap competition?

Not really. The soap industry is highly skilled, and “Days of Our Lives” is a more polished product than “The Biggest Loser.” Soaps are more like airlines. The value of their product has dwindled rapidly, but unions don’t provide flexibility for trimming costs to keep up. Since soaps aren’t a separate industry, they can’t use bankruptcy as a wedge to reopen contracts and make cuts. An AFTRA source who didn’t want to be identified says, “We’re certainly mindful of the challenges the industry faces,” although not mindful enough to back down on their main goal: “We want to increase pay and benefits for our members.”

Hundreds of IATSE members are going to be out of work. Even unionized reality programs like ABC’s upcoming soap replacements “The Chew” (Mario Batali cooking show) and “The Revolution” (a “Biggest Loser”-style weight-loss show) will bring far fewer jobs in makeup, costumes, set moving, etc.

Maybe renegotiating the daytime serials portion of the contract would have beaten layoffs. But from the unions’ perspective, any concession sets a dangerous precedent. If they take a hit on daytime, isn’t that an invitation to cut prime-time contracts? So unions will continue to shrug at reality and the marketplace will continue to punish them.

And back in the real world, as Ronald Radosh notes at PJM, a deadly combination of unions and the Obama administration are tag-teaming Boeing, pressuring them to avoid a moving their factory from the state of Washington to a right-to-work state.

Can you Gangster Government? I knew that you could.