Warner Bros. Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav dodged boos and chants in support of the WGA from picketers and guild supporters during his commencement speech at Boston University on Sunday.
As the WBD boss took the podium to deliver the school’s 150th commencement address, chants of “Pay your writers” interrupted Zaslav’s speech, prompting him to pause his remarks and restart. Zaslav’s comment that followed didn’t help the matter as his statement that “some people are looking for a fight” served to rile the crowd even more.
Chants of “pay your writers!” during David Zaslav’s BU commencement speech: pic.twitter.com/x65XwmIxgD
— Tyler Ruggeri (@t_ruggeri) May 21, 2023
The boos continued as Zaslav went on to give his prepared remarks to graduating students, which ranged from advice on “focus[ing] on people’s good qualities” to acknowledging one’s shortcomings, though chanting and booing remained audible through the speech.
Even before the WBD head began his speech, guild members and supporters loudly booed as it was announced that he would receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the ceremony.
“I am grateful to my alma mater, Boston University, for inviting me to be part of today’s commencement and for giving me an honorary degree, and, as I have often said, I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value,” Zaslov said about the matter in a statement to TheWrap.
Zaslav loudly booed at BU commencement. Although I’m incapable of being happy, this comes close. pic.twitter.com/qtIaMJJaFb
— Shawn Wines WGA Captain (@shawnwines) May 21, 2023
The WGA’s presence was expected after the guild announced over a week ago that it would picket Zaslav’s commencement speech, though Warner Bros. Discovery and Boston University remained firm in their commitment to the plans, confirming to TheWrap at the time that the speech would continue as planned.
“Zaslav is the last person BU should ask its graduating seniors to look up to. Zaslav and other Hollywood CEOs are currently refusing to negotiate with striking writers in good faith. Before the strike, Zaslav laid off thousands of media and entertainment workers while personally earning $246 million in 2021 alone,” DSA-LA Hollywood Labor said in a statement on its Action Network page. “His former employees at HBO Max have also accused him of selectively laying off people of color and canceling shows that feature diverse content.”
As the WGA strike gears up to enter its fourth week, guild members and supporters have remained united against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which is composed of major studios including Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, as well as broadcast television networks and streaming services.
Zaslav is among the studio heads and CEO being specifically singled out by the strike, as a recent WGA infographic pointed out Zaslav as one of the one of eight CEOs who were called out for their 2021 compensation packages for 2021. In 2022, Zaslav took home $39.3 million in total compensation, according to a recent regulatory filing with the SEC, which was down from $246.6 million in 2021 but up from $37.7 million in 2020.
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