David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, remains Boston University’s first speaker in 2023, despite criticism from the Writers Guild of America, college groups and others over the institution’s choice to nominate Warner Bros. CEO. Discovery as the keynote speaker for this year’s graduation ceremony.
“Nothing will change in the university’s plans,” says a BU spokesperson The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday following the announcement of the May 4 commencement speaker, which also included a list of this year’s honorary doctorate recipients such as Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The statement follows growing calls from the WGA and various groups of Democratic Socialists of America in the Boston area that Zaslav should not have been chosen as this year’s speaker amid the ongoing writers’ strike, which kicked off last week after the writers’ guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to agree on a new contract on May 1.
In its own statement, the WGA called the decision to select Zaslav as one of the school’s inaugural speakers a “bad decision” and noted that both Boston guild members and students participating in the university’s film and television program had “deep disappointment”. about his choice to give the CEO of WBD a university platform.
Writers Guild members are on strike as companies including Warner Bros. Discovery, refused to guarantee a certain level of weekly employment in episodic television, tried to turn late night writers to a daytime rate, opposed free work on script revisions for screenwriters, and refused even to accede to our proposal on the existential threat that AI poses to all writers,” the union said. “Boston University should not give voice to anyone who wants to destroy its students’ ability to build careers in the film and television industry.”
It added that the university “should expect students, members of the Writers Guild, as well as other unions and community groups to pick up Zaslav’s commencement speech.”
Along with calls to pitch the event, groups such as DSA-LA Hollywood Labor, BU Young Democratic Socialists of America, and Boston DSA, along with the BU Grad Workers Union, have encouraged students to write letters to BU leadership and decorated sports graduation caps in support of striking WGA members. WGA writers have also directly criticized the move on social media in comments to the announcement on Twitter and Instagram.
“Zaslav and other Hollywood CEOs are currently refusing to negotiate in good faith with striking writers. Before the strike, Zaslav laid off thousands of media and entertainment workers while personally earning $246 million in 2021 alone,” the DSA-LA Hollywood Labor said in a statement. a statement on their Action Network page, which also includes a petition to cancel Zaslav as the first speaker of this year. “By honoring Zaslav with an invitation to speak now, at this critical time for the entertainment industry, BU is directly suppressing the future income of its graduates.”
The Hollywood Reporter has contacted Warner Bros. Discovery for comment.
The criticism of the BU graduate and the selection of the WBD president as a starting speaker comes amid not only the ongoing strike, but also the release of CEO compensation in legal filings in March and April with Zaslav under the exclusive nine-figure club of 2022, who earned $246.6 million.
Before that, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery in a May 5 CNBC issue Squak BoX interview that he thought standout writers should be “fairly compensated.” He also said the company was “not happy” with the strike and the potential cost-cutting opportunities other CEOs had discussed.
“We’re a pure storytelling company and we’ve fought to get the best creatives at Warner Bros.,” he continued. “To create great stories, we need great writers, and we need the entire industry to work together, and everyone deserves to be paid fairly. So our main focus is, let’s try to fix this. Let’s do it so that the writers feel they are valued – which they are – and that they are compensated fairly. And then we go. Let’s tell beautiful stories together.”