Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writers May Return to Work By Tomorrow

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) votes today on a new contract deal and on whether to end their three-month strike against The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. On Sunday the WGA board and negotiating committee approved the new three-year deal. Writers could be back to work as soon as tomorrow.

The breakthrough in negotiations came on January 22 when the WGA abandoned its proposals to unionize writers who work on reality shows and on animated movies. The writers' union decided to focus instead on its most important issue: getting paid when their work is delivered via the new media--across the Internet on devices like cell phones and laptops.

After the Directors Guild (DGA) reached agreement with the studios last month, cracks began appearing in the WGA's solidarity. Some writers pressed to accept a similar deal to the one reached by directors while other writers wanted to sweeten the pot.

Sunday's LA Times described the new media provisions reached by the writers:

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 $1,200 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% 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 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% increase in minimum pay rates for television and film work.

The studios aren't out of the woods yet, however. In June, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) contract expires. According to the L.A. Times, "Officials of the 120,000-member actors union have sounded increasingly militant."

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