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Writers' Strike Could Harm Support Businesses

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The union representing film and TV writers went on strike just after midnight tonight. The writers say they will picket studios and production sites on both coasts later today. The impact of the strike will be felt first on talk shows like "David Letterman" and "Jay Leno," which will go immediately into reruns.

And down the line, the economic impact could be much wider, as NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: Every movie or TV show means work for hundreds of people, among them writers, producers, editors, set designers and carpenters. Add in drivers who shuttle people and equipment, the local dry cleaner, dog groomer, catering firms, talent agencies and hotels, and you come up with roughly half a million jobs tied to Southern California's entertainment industry.

If the strike is short, the impact on them won't be great. But as Jonathan Taplin of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School explains, if it goes on for months, as it did in 1988, that's another matter.

Professor JONATHAN TAPLIN (Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California): If you're an electrician and you make pretty good money but you've got a second house, you may want to get rid of that second house. If you're a restaurant like The Grill in Beverly Hills, whose whole business is based around entertainment people are having lunch with writers and talking about new deals, that's going to slow down.

KAUFMAN: And the list goes on and on. On a more global level, the entertainment industry is one of America's leading export industries, bringing in tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue - tens of billions more come from the domestic market. And if the strike is a long one, much of that revenue could be in jeopardy.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Wendy Kaufman