Friday, January 18, 2008

Another Update on the Writers' Strike

The big news is that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) reached a tentative deal with the film and television producers yesterday after less than a week of formal negotiation.

The DGA contract doesn't expire until June 30, 2008.

Reuters reported on the deal, saying "The Directors Guild has a history of reaching swift labor pacts with the studios, but the latest deal has drawn unusually intense scrutiny because of its implications for ending a strike by the Writers Guild of America."

The writers' strike has been going on since November 5, but I reported last month here the talks broke off on December 7th.

In a story in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Writers Guild of America (WGA) officials indicated they planned to review the directors' deal. "The guild leaders said that in examining any deal made by the directors, a key issue will be not just how much money is paid for reuse of movies and TV shows on the Internet, but whether the creation of original work for the Internet comes under the auspices of the guild. Mr. Young [Executive Director of the WGA] said that in the near future, the Internet could become a 'pilot playground' for the testing of new shows, and if the work is created by non-union writers, it could dramatically undercut the union's strength over the long term."

Readers of this blog will remember my post of January 7th here about the new show Quarterlife, which originated on the Internet and then was picked up by NBC. Quarterlife will premiere on February 18th.

Network television shows have been available on the Internet for some time. Quarterlife was the first time a show originating on the Internet has gone the other direction to television.

A week after the talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) broke down in December, the WGA turned up the heat by announcing it was going to try dealing directly with individual studios and production companies, thereby going around the AMPTP. Since that time, it has struck a number of these deals.

The WGA sustained a blow this past week when the four major television studios canceled more than 65 writer contracts.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that this move was acknowledgement "the current television season cannot be salvaged" and "development of net season's crop of new shows also could be in jeopardy."

"For the studios, the terminations were in some part strategic. Payments had not been made on the contracts since November . . . By eliminating the deals now, the studios will no longer be obligated to pay the writers even if the strike ends in the next month or two."

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