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Sunday, February 10, 2008

International Television: WGA Strike OFFICIALLY OVER! but there is a 'BUT'

Special Thanks to my Forum-mate: Brent88,

The Strike is Over!

SUNDAY, 12:30 PM: At the WGA's news conference today, union leaders declared the new contract is "a huge victory for us". Trumpeted WGAW President Patric Verrone, "This is the first time we actually got a better deal in a new media than previously." Verrone credited News Corp. No. 2 Peter Chernin and Disney chief Bob Iger, and also CBS boss Les Moonves, with "being instrumental in making this deal happen" after the WGA spent 3 months "getting nowhere" with the AMPTP negotiators and lawyers. WGA negotiating committee chief John Bowman added that, "What happened to the Golden Globes was instrumental in getting the CEOs to this table. It was a huge symbol."

Verrone said it was "heartbreaking for me personally" to drop the WGA's demands relating to reality and animation (Verrone is an animation writer) "But it was more important that we make a deal that benefitted the membership and the town as a whole and got people back to work." Verrone stated that "The legacy of the '88 strike was the ability of the companies to develop content without writers and creators. The legacy of this strike will be the ability of writers and creators to develop content without the companies. We are making deals, and we will continue to make deals, with Google, Yahoo, and others beyond just the 7 conglomerates."

The leaders confirmed that WGA members would have 48 hours to call off the strike and 10 days to accept the newly negotiated contract.

But Verrone said TV showrunners (who have producing duties in addition to writing duties on TV series) would be allowed to go back to work Monday before the 48-hour notice vote by members is conducted. This no doubt solves the dilemma that the moguls made the deal negotiated with the WGA contingent on having the writers go back to work immediately.

The Writers Guild East Council and Writers Guild West Board voted to approve the contract and sent it to membership for a ratification vote, which will be conducted via mail ballot and at special meetings conducted on a date to be determined. In addition, the Council and Board also voted to lift the restraining order (strike) upon the majority vote of the membership, casting ballots in a vote to be conducted Tuesday, February 12th.

Variety reports that industry sources say the WGA contract reached with the majors "includes a provision that will allow scribes who were force majeuered from ongoing series to return to their old jobs. The contract does not address those who were force majeured from overall deals and other contracts if they were not working on a series that will resume production." I can also report that the Screen Actors Guild, whose contract expires in June, has not set a date yet when it will start negotiating with the moguls.



Optimism Greets WGA Deal
Strike isn't over just yet; writers will vote in coming days

The Writers Guild of America leadership recommended Saturday that striking writers approve a contract offer from television networks and movie studios, signaling a likely -- but not immediate -- resolution to the crippling labor impasse.

The tentative pact -- which guild members greeted enthusiastically but hardly exuberantly -- still requires a ratification vote to end the 14-week strike. The guild had considered allowing its 10,000 members to return to work Monday, but decided to give writers a chance to consider the contract.

The guild expects the strike votes to be counted -- and writers to be back at their keyboards -- as early as Wednesday. If approved, the contract would not take effect for about two weeks.

Until the strike is lifted, thousands of workers in businesses as varied as catering, lighting and security will remain furloughed, and the production of new television episodes will not resume right away. The fate of the Feb. 24 Academy Awards remains in limbo, as show organizers have said they need at least two weeks of writing to prepare the ceremony and have not yet been granted a waiver from the guild that would permit such work.

"We have a deal," Patric Verrone, president of the guild's West Coast branch, told thousands of cheering out-of-work writers in a special meeting Saturday at the Shrine Auditorium. "More importantly, you have a deal."

Verrone said the final details of the deal between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers were resolved at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and the guild convened meetings of its members on both coasts later that day to walk them through the terms.

While the proposed deal did not deliver any landmark gains for the writers, it did not include any of the rollbacks proffered by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Guild leaders -- who were welcomed at the Shrine with several sustained standing ovations -- said that it was the best agreement they could obtain, and that it gave writers new compensation formulas for work created for, streamed and rebroadcast on the Internet.

"It is the best deal the guild has bargained for in 30 years. Admittedly, the contract has some holes," Verrone said. The studios declined to comment.

"I think we came away with a good deal," Michael Winship, president of the guild's East Coast branch, said at the New York meeting. "I hope the membership endorses it."

The Writers Guild's negotiating committee is scheduled to meet Sunday morning to endorse the deal before the guild's board, which also is expected to recommend it to members.

"You can decide whether to lift the strike," Verrone told members gathered at the Shrine. "The decision to lift the strike will be yours."

Under the tentative deal, film and television writers, who previously got nothing for shows and movies streamed over the Internet, will receive a fixed residual payment of about $1,300 a year for one-hour shows streamed online in the first two years of the new contract.

In the third year of the deal, however, they would receive something directors will not: residuals equal to 2 percent of the revenue received by the program's distributor. Productions of certain shows created for the Internet will now be covered by the Writers Guild contract.

"The reason for this strike was to make sure we had coverage of the Internet, that it didn't become a guild-free zone, and I think we accomplished that," said Warren Leight, executive producer of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." "I think some people will push for more. But it becomes one of those analyses: How much more can you get for how much more pain?"

The tentative agreement also includes a doubling of the residual rate for movies and TV shows sold online and secures the union's jurisdiction over content created specifically for the Web, above certain budget thresholds. And like directors, writers would receive a 3.5 percent increase in minimum pay rates for television and film work.

Carmen Culver, a writer for movies and miniseries, called the agreement a complicated deal. "There were some parts I was very happy about and others less so," she said. "But I'm extremely proud of the guild for hanging tough. It's a great day for the labor movement. We have really stood up and said to these corporations that it all begins with the word. I think the big boys have been brought to their knees."

Filmmaker Michael Moore came out of the New York meeting substantially more enthusiastic than when he entered. "This is an historic moment for labor in this country," Moore said. "To have the writers union stand up like we did, not give back a single thing and make them give -- it was a really great moment."

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