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Writer's Guild Of America Goes On Strike


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Thanks again Dade for the latest post. I come here to Mortys for all my TV news!!!! Thanks Morty, Jem, Yana, Jedi, AJ, Fuskie and all who make Mortys so great! :animated_wave:

Sorry if I missed anyone! :heart:

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Writers, Studios Return to Table

Strike starting to affect business; both sides have reasons to deal

By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

November 26, 2007

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Writers walk the picket lines.

Writers and studio negotiators will return to the bargaining table Monday amid cautious optimism that the pickets and protests that have roiled the entertainment industry in the last three weeks might soon give way to labor peace.

But it's too early to predict a Hollywood-style happy ending. Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are still far from reaching a new contract to replace one that expired Oct. 31.

It could take several days, if not weeks, to craft a deal, given the complexity of the issues and the mistrust that has characterized previous bargaining sessions, people close to the negotiations say.

Although talks between the parties began in July, they didn't get serious until Nov. 4 -- the day before writers went on strike. And the sides remain far apart over how much money writers should get paid when their work is sold or reused on the Internet, cellphones, digital video players and other new-media devices.

"They've got a lot of work to do," said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment industry attorney and former associate counsel for the Writers Guild of America, West. "It's time for both sides to buckle down in order to put this town back in business."

An estimated 50 TV shows and a handful of movies have stopped production since the strike began, throwing thousands of people out of work and hurting local businesses, particularly those that rely on the entertainment industry.

Both camps have plenty of incentive to have a meeting of the minds. For studios, the strike has been initially more disruptive than the previous writers walkout in 1988, said Brian Walton, who was chief negotiator for the guild then.

"This has real bite to it," Walton said. "It has been extremely well organized."

In contrast to the 1988 strike, which began when the TV industry was on hiatus, this strike came in the middle of the fall season, before networks had enough time to heavily stockpile scripts. The work stoppage was helped by a show of solidarity among writer-producers, known as showrunners, who joined picket lines and in many cases refused to work at all.

Some of the most popular programs on television have been shut down, including dramas such as "Cold Case" and "Desperate Housewives," late-night shows and several sitcoms, including "'Til Death," "The Office" and "My Name Is Earl."

If the strike lasts two more weeks, virtually all prime-time series and sitcoms shot in Los Angeles will halt production, costing the region's economy an estimated $21 million a day in direct spending, industry officials said.

Networks could save money in the short term by relying more on lower-cost reality TV and game shows. But a longer strike could batter next year's pilot season and cause a reduction in advertising rates. The strike may also accelerate the exodus of younger viewers from broadcast networks, which have been losing market share to the Internet and other forms of entertainment.

Although TV networks have been hit hardest, film studios also have been affected. Last week, Warner Bros. postponed production of "Shantaram" starring Johnny Depp, joining several other films that have been delayed because scripts weren't ready.

The disruption has given the guild some added leverage at the bargaining table. But union leaders also face pressure to hash out a deal. If talks collapse again, studios could use the opportunity to strike a deal with the Directors Guild of America. Although their contract doesn't expire until June 30, directors already are preparing for early negotiations.

Directors have often negotiated early, thereby setting the terms for writers. Many writers fear that directors could undermine their cause by agreeing to terms on Internet residuals that are less favorable than the ones they are holding out for. But the divide-and-conquer strategy may not work as well this time for the studios. They also face tough negotiations with actors, who share many of the same concerns as writers. Their contract also expires June 30.

Talks are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at an undisclosed location.

The two sides will face a tough time bridging their differences. For example, the studios had offered to pay writers a DVD residual rate for movies and TV shows sold through online services such as Apple's iTunes Store. That amounts to 0.36% of wholesale revenue, far below the 2.5% residual rate writers are seeking for all new-media residuals.

Similarly, studios had proposed paying a residual rate of 1.2% of license fees for shows that are streamed for free, but only after a six-week window. Writers previously proposed a three-day window. They were also livid about a proposal that would allow studios, for promotional purposes, to stream entire movies online without paying residuals.

Another sticking point: The guild wants all Web shows to be covered under its agreement, while studios have proposed limiting pay to only those episodes derived from scripted network shows.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITOR'S BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

Report: A Strike-ending Deal Is "Already Done"

Will the strike negotiators be home for Christmas? A "very reliable source" tells Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily blog that there appears to be a deal in place between both sides. "It's already done, basically," says the insider, crediting weeks' worth of back channel note-sharing conducted by Hollywood agents. "I was told not to expect an agreement this week," says Finke, "but my source thought it was possible that the strike could be settled before Christmas."

In other words, maybe, just maybe, TV viewers won't be handed a big lump of coal as this holiday season

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Strike Hangover Could Last a While

Shows could take several weeks to resume production

By Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller, L.A. Times

November 28, 2007

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Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammer of 'Back to You'

If the writers strike ended today, Hollywood would not immediately return to its regularly scheduled programming.

The risk of irreparable damage to the current and upcoming television season increases with each day the walkout continues. Still, there were no tangible signs of progress Tuesday, when negotiators for writers and the studios returned to the bargaining table for their second full day of talks since the strike began more than three weeks ago.

Although major differences divide them, the parties agreed to meet again today. The seriousness of the sessions has raised hopes that a deal could be reached before Christmas.

Even if that happens, however, Hollywood would not be back at work until after the holidays.

Before writers can pick up their pens, they may have to wait a week or more between the time when the Writers Guild of America's board approves a new three-year contract and when its members formally vote on the deal. Then writers are up against their traditional two-week hiatus in December, when networks rely heavily on reruns. That could prompt many writers to work through the holidays to complete scripts so that shows can start shooting again in January.

Writer-producers and studio executives estimate that it could take three to five weeks to resume production of dozens of television shows that have shut down. Many shows have run through their scripts, and some have only outlines of future episodes.

Further, it's unlikely that studios would start production again until they had several scripts in hand for a given series, as a way to avoid costly starts and stops.

Another factor that could slow down the process is that some crew members have found work elsewhere to make ends meet and may not be available to return to their old jobs.

"Resuming production isn't something that can happen overnight," said Pam Veasey, an executive producer of "CSI: NY," which will stop shooting Tuesday, having completed 14 of 24 episodes. "You have to write scripts, you have to find locations, you have to do casting. It doesn't just take one week to prepare 200 crew members to film a single episode of a drama."

Some shows will resume filming sooner than others, depending on how many scripts they completed. Late-night talk shows would be the first to return to the air with fresh material.

Situation comedies filmed before an audience, such as FOX's "Back to You," could be up and running within seven working days, according to show co-creator Steve Levitan. The show, which shut down when the strike began, has two scripts that just need polishing, Levitan said.

In contrast, other shows, such as the ABC series "Pushing Daisies," would take five weeks to gear up, according to creator Bryan Fuller. Production on "Pushing Daisies" ended Monday upon completion of the series' ninth episode.

Fuller pointed out that even when the strike ends, showrunners still face the possibility of a shortened season and cancellation of their series.

Whatever the cost of the strike, writers just want it to end.

"I'm going to choose to remain optimistic," Levitan said of the current negotiations. "I don't understand why this deal would take weeks to make while there's so much at stake."

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITOR'S BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

Strike Leads DNC to Strike Presidential Debate

Labor troubles have put a fork in plans to have CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric moderate a Dec. 10 presidential candidates' debate. The Democratic National Committee has decided to cancel their Los Angeles face-off rather then have a potential run-in with the Writers Guild of America. Writers and other CBS News employees represented by the union could walk off the job on the 10th and several major candidates, including front runners Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have said they would not cross picket lines to participate. "Due to the uncertainty created by the ongoing labor dispute between CBS and the Writers Guild of America, the DNC has canceled the December 10th debate in Los Angeles. There are no plans to re-schedule," says DNC Communications director Karen Finney.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITORS BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

Leno Closes Shop, Leaving Some Staffers Crying, "Bah Humbug!"

Non-WGA staffers at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Friday put in their final day of work, their future with the late-nighter uncertain when the strike ends. According to Variety, before bidding the offices adieu, employees received their typical holiday bonus

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Studios Make Offer, Writers Unimpressed

Sides remain far apart; negotiations will continue

By Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller, L.A. Times

November 30, 2007

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Writers walk the picket lines.So much for the media blackout.

Four days into negotiations that many had hoped would bring an end to a costly strike, negotiators for the studios and writers Thursday reversed their pledge to keep talks secret.

The communication moratorium was designed to make it easier for both sides to focus on finding a way out of the strike, now in its fourth week.

But late Thursday, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers issued a statement touting a "groundbreaking" new contract proposal it valued at more than $130 million in additional compensation, "above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year."

The Writers Guild of America, also breaking its silence, immediately shot back and dismissed the studios' proposal as mere hype. "It amounts to a massive rollback," the WGA said in a letter to its members that was simultaneously released to the media.

The setback underscored the continued disconnect between writers and studios over what they say constitutes a fair deal. This week, the writers have expressed growing frustration about what they view as the snail's pace of negotiations.

Both sides said they planned to return to the bargaining table Tuesday.

Thursday's unexpected action to break the media blackout inflamed tensions and dashed the hopes of many industry insiders that a new three-year deal could be concluded quickly. It also demonstrated how far apart the sides remain on the key issues of pay for writers' work on movies and television shows distributed via the Internet and other new technology.

For the presentation of TV episodes online, writers said the studios offered a single, fixed payment of less than $250 for an hourlong program, negligible in relation to the more than $20,000 a writer earns when that program is rerun on a network. The guild said the companies offered nothing for movies shown free on the Internet.

Regarding shows created specifically for the Internet, studios offered to pay a script fee of $1,300 for episodes lasting up to 15 minutes that are derived from scripted dramatic programs. However, the studios refused to give the union jurisdiction for all other original shows created for the Internet.

That's a major sticking point. Writers view online entertainment as a new frontier and don't want to be shortchanged. Studios, however, say they can't compete in the new medium if they must pay union wages.

Furthermore, the guild said, the studios did not budge from their previous offer to apply an unpopular DVD formula to movies and TV shows that are sold online. Nor did the studios scrap an equally controversial proposal that allows them to stream entire films and TV episodes for promotional purposes without paying residuals.

Altogether, the guild said its own proposal would cost the industry $151 million over three years.

For their part, the studios suggested in their statement that their new proposal would pave the way to a deal. "We continue to believe that there is common ground to be found between the two sides and that our proposal for a New Economic Partnership offers the best chance to find it."

Guild leaders, however, were not willing to be so accommodating. Returning to their heightened rhetoric, they said they'd return to the picket lines Monday and vowed they would "not accept a bad deal."

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITORS BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

As the Strike Continues, Has Viewer Stance Shifted?

As the strike enters its fifth week, a recent TVGuide.com poll showed that 80 percent of readers are in support of the writers. However, since the WGA quickly rejected the AMPTP's offer last week, we've seen more objections surface, some viewers frustrated with the failed negotiations, and others simply upset their favorite shows have run out of new episodes. So, has your opinion of the strike shifted since the WGA quickly dismissed the producers' offer? And if so, why? Tell us what you're thinking as the work stoppage continues.

Overall, the writers' strike has made its mark on 2007, as noted in an annual poll by I Want Media where "Writers on Strike" were named the 2007 Person of the Year.

Posted by TV Guide Staff 12/3/07 4:14 PM Permalink

Numbers Count Is Down: "It's a Bummer," Says Star

Their Number is up. Actor David Krumholtz, star of the CBS series, confirmed to TV Guide at Sunday's Movies Rock event, "Yeah, we stopped working."

Fans will be disappointed even though Krumholtz says they were able to complete "12 episodes, and we got two episodes past the strike deadline." And the last episode shot won't necessarily be a satisfying roundup or a finale. "In fact, the last episode is a very strange episode, just sort of another episode of Numbers, nothing crazy special. It's odd. We got cut off."

None of this is morale-boosting. Everyone, he says, feels "terrible. It's weird to say goodbye to crew members you've worked with for three and a half years and not know if you're ever going to see them again. No one wants to end it like that."

Krumholtz is confident the show will be returning, but even that is bittersweet right now. "We'll definitely get another season, but crew members will move on

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Alec Baldwin Plots to Rock the Strike Vote

Opining that producers "have bigger egos than even the stars themselves, but without any sense of humor," Alec Baldwin

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As Tensions Rise, Moguls "Pessimistic" on Quick Resolution

Deadline Hollywood Daily suggests that frustration from both the WGA and AMPTP has continued to build during the strike talks, which are about to enter their sixth week. Nikki Finke's opinion is that Hollywood moguls are not delivering a promised proposal based on the writers' streaming counter-proposal. On Thursday, says the blog, "both the WGA and AMPTP had a brief discussion about streaming, made-for-Web content pay and jurisdiction, and electronic sell-through. Then one of the negotiators from the [producers'] side declared, 'The DVD formula is good for you, and you should embrace it with open arms.'"

That evening, when the AMPTP's proposal still wasn't finished, the producers said they would work on it, at the hotel, straight through midnight or later. But some of the WGA negotiators reportedly hung around the hotel and, to their surprise, watched AMPTP members get into their cars at 6 pm and individually drive off.

Further proof that tensions might be rising: a brand-new missive from the AMPTP, which takes the WGA to task for assorted claims being made in official statements and via back channels. "The WGA's organizers have yet to respond directly to [the AMPTP's New Economic Partnership] proposal, preferring instead to focus on jurisdictional issues in the areas of reality and animation television," says the org on one point. As for commitment to deal-making, they claim that WGA organizers arrive for 10 am start times "after lunchtime," they "spend relatively little time at the negotiating table" and "spend as much time speaking among themselves as they do [negotiating]." A final blow from the AMPTP: "Had negotiations begun when the producers wanted them to start"

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Writers, Studios Break Off Talks

The five-week-old strike continues after negotiations stall with the two sides still far apart.

By Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller

December 7, 2007, 7:16 PM PST

Talks between Hollywood writers and studios imploded Friday, dashing hopes of an imminent resolution to a five-week-old strike that has upended the entertainment industry.

The impasse is the latest turn in what has become one of the most tumultuous and vitriolic labor disputes in recent Hollywood history. It comes after eight days of contentious negotiations that yielded very little, if any, progress between the parties.

The sides remain deeply divided on how to split up new media revenues as digital technology and the Internet transform the way entertainment is delivered and consumed.

Both sides blamed the other for the breakdown of the talks, which fell apart over disputes about how much writers should be paid for shows distributed online, and whether writers who work in reality TV and feature animation should be covered under the Writer's Guild of America contract.

In a statement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, said it was "puzzled and disheartened by an ongoing WGA negotiating strategy that seems designed to delay or derail talks rather than facilitate an end to this strike."

Guild officials were not immediately available for comment.The latest setback will have far reaching consequences across Hollywood and for many businesses throughout Southern California that feed off the industry.

It may also foreshadow a new period of labor unrest in Hollywood, which has enjoyed relative peace for most of the last two decades.

A continued walkout won't affect only the 10,500 writers on pickets lines, but also thousands of other workers -- from crew members and actors to talent agents and studio office employees. Already, the strike has taken a heavy toll on so-called below-the-line production workers who work behind the scenes on film and TV shows.

The television industry, which already has been disrupted by the shutdown of more than 50 shows, will be even harder hit. Virtually all scripted television shows are expected to stop production by next week, causing a loss of 15,000 jobs and costing the Los Angeles economy an estimated $21 million a day in direct production spending, according to FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits.

Some economists have predicted that a strike stretching into next year could cost the overall L.A. economy more that $1 billion. The entertainment industry accounts for almost 7% of Los Angeles County's $442-billion economy.

Instead of watching new episodes of their favorite TV shows like "Desperate Housewives," "The Office," and "Cold Case," viewers will see reruns and a plethora of reality, sports and news programs.

With no fresh episodes, networks stand to lose tens of millions in advertising dollars. They could also see a further exodus of younger viewers to the Internet and other forms of entertainment, eroding the networks' market share.

Film studios will also suffer more disruptions. While they have enough movies to fill theaters in 2008, already several productions have been delayed because of the strike. Those include Ron Howard's "Angels & Demons," a sequel to "The Da Vinci Code" and Oliver Stone's "Pinkville." Other films could face similar fates.

Studios plan in the coming weeks to ratchet up the pressure on writers by invoking "force majeure" clauses in employment contracts with producers and others. The provision allows studios in a crisis such as a strike to terminate deals after a period of time, typically four to eight weeks after suspension notices go out. Shortly after the strike began Nov. 5, studios sent out dozens of such suspension letters to writer-producers of shows that shut down.

Most studios have contingency plans to pare overhead after the first of the year that include shedding some production deals and employee layoffs, several studio executive said this week. Talent agencies, which have slashed expenses, plan similar job cuts.

The studios will now try to strike a deal with directors, whose contract expires June 30. The Directors Guild of America, which has struck only once in its 71 years, for five minutes, has a history of negotiating contracts early and has a more cordial relationship with the studios than the writers union does.

Studios are hoping that a deal with directors would set the template for agreements with writers and actors, whose contract also expires June 30.

Such a strategy, however, could harden the resolve of the striking writers, whose guild has often sparred with the directors union on pay issues. It could also drive writers even closer to actors, who share many of the same concerns and who are preparing for equally tough negotiations. Screen Actors Guild leaders have strongly backed writers during the walkout, with a number of their celebrity members walking the picket lines.

Studios have been preparing for months for the prospect of an actors strike by moving up movies' production start dates so they could wrap by the end of June.

A prolonged strike also carries risks for the Writer Guild. Although union members have been strongly united behind their leadership, the solidarity could fracture if the strike drags on, creating severe hardships for many lower- and middle-income writers. Already, a group of top writer-producers known as show runners has expressed concern about how the strike is hurting their own staffs.

With so much at stake for both sides, many question why the parties have so far failed to come to terms on a new, three-year contract.

The parties remain sharply at odds over a host of complex issues, at the heart of which is how writers will be paid as entertainment migrates online.

"The industry is at crossroads," said industry veteran Sidney Sheinberg, former president of Universal Pictures' longtime corporate parent, MCA Inc. "Fear is a great motivator here on both sides."

Writers fear being short-changed as the studios rush to distribute their TV shows and movies on the Web, cellphones, video iPods and other devices. They sharply disagree with studios over how much they should be paid when shows are sold and reused online or created specifically for the Web.

"I'm not going to be the chairman of the negotiating committee that gives away the Internet," said the guild's John F. Bowman. "There's an enormous burden of history here."

The studios, confronted with dwindling profits from DVD sales and rising production and marketing costs, say they are concerned about committing to the guild's new-media pay demands when the economics of the Internet and other digital technologies are still so uncertain.

"They deserve to participate in the growth of the business, but you can't choke a business before it gets started," one top studio executive said of the writers and their demands.

The dispute isn't fueled only by the issues, however. A clash of personalities and styles of the opposing parties -- with the guild's chief negotiator, David Young, and President Patric M. Verrone facing off against the studios' negotiator, Nick Counter. That bad blood exacerbated tensions and caused dysfunctional negotiations.

Young, a veteran labor organizer of garment and construction workers and a newcomer to Hollywood, transformed the guild's culture from a somewhat insular artists group to a more traditional, activist union focused on growing its base. His confrontational tactics, more associated with blue-collar unions, put him sharply at odds with Counter, a veteran and hard-nosed entertainment industry negotiator who publicly blasted Young as inexperienced and militant. The two men openly sparred well before talks even began.

The conflict set the stage for a dysfunctional and erratic bargaining process.

Although negotiations ostensibly started back in July, they didn't get serious until Nov. 4, the day before writers walked.

Talks resumed last week, prompted by a flurry of back-channel communications involving writers-producers, studio executives and top agents, led by Creative Artists Agency partner Bryan Lourd. That raised hopes that a deal was within reach.

Tuesday marked the first time that they had a serious discussion about one of the biggest issues dividing them: pay for shows streamed online.

The next day, however, talks took a turn for the worse as writers reiterated their demands for jurisdiction over reality TV and feature animation and a proposal that would give writers the right to wage sympathy strikes in solidarity with other unions.

Studio executives considered those nonnegotiable issues and were angry because they thought writers wanted negotiations to focus on new-media pay only.

Writers were equally upset that the studios didn't offer better proposals on such key issues as residuals for shows sold online and episodes created for the Web.

The frustrations on both sides boiled Thursday and Friday with the sides accusing each of misstating facts about the details of the latest round of talks.

..............................................

Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITORS BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

WGA Addresses Broken-down Talks, Refuses to Accept AMPTP's Ultimatums

The WGA's own statement issued late Friday, after the latest round of negotiations concluded:

"AMPTP Breaks off Negotiations

Today, after three days of discussions, the AMPTP came back to us with a proposal that included a total rejection of our proposal on Internet streaming of December 3.

They are holding to their offer of a $250 fixed residual for unlimited one year streaming after a six-week window of free use. They still insist on the DVD rate for Internet downloads.

They refuse to cover original material made for new media.

This offer was accompanied by an ultimatum: the AMPTP demands we give up several of our proposals, including Fair Market Value (our protection against vertical integration and self-dealing), animation, reality, and, most crucially, any proposal that uses distributor

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UPDATED Strike Chart: How Long Before Your Shows Go Dark?

[uPDATED 12/7/07] There seems to be little doubt that the writers' strike will result in a shorter TV season, but just how short are we talking? Well, as you might've guessed, it varies from show to show. Those programs that are either highly efficient (Friday Night Lights) or have entered the season with a backlog of episodes (Men in Trees, Law & Order: SVU) will be in originals well into the new year. But series with tighter production schedules (i.e., nearly every half-hour comedy) will go dark almost immediately. Of course, figuring out how many episodes remain in your favorite shows' arsenals requires a lot of numbers crunching

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Strike Imperils Pilot Season

Ripple effect could stretch to next season

December 10, 2007

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Writers walk the picket lines.

The TV-viewing public has not exactly been clamoring for second seasons of "Big Shots" or "K-Ville." But if the at-an-impasse writers' strike drags on another month or so, it could get them.

That's one of the more extreme, doomsday-ish scenarios for the 2008-09 season if the strike drags on. The big media companies broke off talks with the Writers Guild Friday and said they wouldn't return to the table until the writers drop several of their demands. The guild, meanwhile, says the studios never intended to enter real negotiation during talks last week.

The upshot is lots of reality programming and the exhaustion of midseason scripted shows in the coming months. And should the six-week-old strike go another six weeks, the pilot season for 2008-09 could be lost as well, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

WGA Writers' Strike Roundup

During a normal season, networks would be handing out script commitments and pilot orders around this time. The vast majority of pilots film between February and April, and they all vie for a handful of spots in the lineups announced at May's upfronts. That process, where the nets tout their new lineups to crowds of advertisers in New York, could be altered as well.

According to the HR, a likely fall-back plan will be for the network to bring back most or all of their current slates and shoot pilots in late spring or summer. That would push most new shows to midseason.

The networks have already greenlit a handful of pilots for next season -- such as "The Oaks" at FOX, "Life on Mars" at ABC and "Backyards & Bullets" at NBC. Those shows could presumably get going quickly whenever a strike ends and be available a little sooner.

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITORS BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

Winter Press Tour Officially Struck Down by Strike

So much for getting any juicy inside scoop on American Gladiators. As suspected weeks ago, the Television Critics Association has scrapped any and all plans for its winter press tour, where the casts and producers of midseason series annually tout their wares. "The machinations that forced this outcome were outside our control," TCA president David Walker said in making the announcement. "It was and remains the TCA's preference to stage a January 2008 TV tour... [but] given the current woeful state of the negotiations, as well as broadcast network reluctance to present during a strike, that does not appear possible."

Posted by TV Guide Staff 12/11/07 9:39 AM

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Heroes Scribe: Length of Strike "Isn't a Surprise"

Speaking with TVGuide.com Tuesday at a Heroes-themed picket line outside Universal Studios, writer/ co-executive producer Jeph Loeb said it "isn't a surprise" to see the WGA strike be forced into a sixth week. "We never thought this would get resolved before January, but that's because we're cynical bastards," he said with a laugh. "We believe that the studios and the networks, as much as they want to make a fair deal, don't want to do that until six to eight weeks have passed until they can [enact]

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Directors Guild "Disappointed" by WGA Strike Stalemate

A statement issued Thursday by DGA president Michael Apted and negotiation chair Gil Cates announced that the Directors Guild is pushing their own negotiations until after the new year. The statement declared that the DGA is "disappointed" by the breakdown of the talks between writers and producers and "hoped that the two parties would be able to reach a fair and reasonable deal that adequately compensates talent for the work they create."

Because of the loss of jobs, a desire to give the two sides more time to come to a fair agreement, and the immense impact on the entire industry by the WGA-AMPTP standoff, the DGA "will not schedule our negotiations to begin until after the new year, and then, only if an appropriate basis for negotiations can be established." Only at that point will the DGA commence with formal talks in order to bring an added pressure upon the AMPTP to settle fairly.

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Writers File Labor Charge Against Studios

Guild says alliance broke law in cutting off negotiations

By Richard Verrier, Claudia Eller and Andrea Chang, LA Times

December 14, 2007

Writers walk the picket lines.Hollywood's bitter labor dispute intensified Thursday when striking writers filed a charge against the studios, alleging they had not bargained in good faith.

In a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, the Writers Guild of America asserted that the studios had violated federal law by ending contract negotiations last Friday after the guild refused to meet their demand to take several proposals off the table.

Thursday's development exacerbates the hostility between the two sides and could prolong a costly strike -- now in its sixth week -- that has virtually shut down scripted television production in Los Angeles County and imperils the current and upcoming TV seasons. Since the strike began, production of more than 60 dramas and sitcoms has been halted in the county, at a cost of more than 10,000 jobs, according to one estimate.

"This is a laying down of the gauntlet in some sense," said David Smith, a labor economist at Pepperdine University. "It's a strategic move that in my mind is likely to set up further tension between the two groups."

The two sides are deeply divided over how writers should be paid when their work is distributed on the Internet.

"It is a clear violation of federal law for the [studios] to issue an ultimatum and break off negotiations if we fail to cave to their illegal demands," the Writers Guild said in a statement Thursday. "It is the height of irresponsibility and intransigence for the [studio alliance] to refuse to negotiate a fair agreement with the WGA."

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, fired back: "The WGA has now been reduced to pounding the table, and this baseless, desperate NLRB complaint is just the latest indication that the WGA's negotiating strategy has achieved nothing for working writers."

If the labor board opts to investigate the charge and file a formal complaint, it could take 45 days for a hearing to be scheduled before an administrative law judge. A ruling against the studios could prompt an appeal, potentially tying up the case for months.

"Given the fact that it's an urgent situation . . . I think we will see a ruling sooner rather than later," said UC Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken, an expert on labor issues.

Guild officials and some labor experts said the maneuver could actually shorten the strike by applying pressure on the studios to return to the bargaining table sooner than they otherwise might have, given the current impasse.

The development came on the same day as the Directors Guild of America's decision to defer its own negotiations with the studios until after New Year's Day to give writers a window -- however narrow -- to make their own deal. Writers had been urging directors to hold off their contract talks until writers negotiated a three-year contract to replace the one that expired Oct. 31.

The writers fear that the directors could undercut their contract by accepting terms, especially in the area of Internet residuals, that are less favorable than the ones they are demanding. Studios have been eager to begin talks with directors, with whom they enjoy much more cordial relations. Directors have struck only once in their union's 71-year history, for five minutes in 1987.

In deference to the writers, directors Thursday held off their own negotiations for two weeks, agreeing not to begin formal negotiations until early January instead of next week. Although their contract doesn't expire until June 30, directors have a pattern of negotiating early deals.

"We don't want to just come in and jump all over the WGA," Directors Guild President Michael Apted said. "We're a sister guild and we have the same agenda. I want to give them a reasonable amount of time to take stock of their position ... [and] to say you've got two weeks to sort it out."

The directors' decision comes after heavy lobbying by a group of more than 300 writer-directors, including Joel and Ethan Coen, Ed Zwick and Sean Penn, who wrote a letter to Apted and other Directors Guild leaders urging them to hold off their contract talks while writers engaged in delicate negotiations.

Apted, director of such films as "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Amazing Grace," said the unanimous decision by the Directors Guild to go in January was prompted by a sense of urgency, noting that the strike had taken a toll on many of the guild's own 13,400 members.

"In the new year, we're going in and nothing will stop us," he said.

The cost of the strike has been mounting every week, with analysts estimating a toll of as much as $21 million a day once all TV production shuts down. In the last week, permits for TV drama shoots on the streets of L.A. dropped 91% compared with a year earlier, according to FilmL.A. Inc., a nonprofit group that handles film permits. Only four shows are still shooting, and next month only one -- ABC's "October Road" -- is set to return.

The directors' decision early Thursday appeared to mark a rare display of solidarity between two unions that have a history of strained relations. Many writers are still angry with directors for accepting a discounted pay formula for home video residuals more than 20 years ago. That formula, under which writers collect about 4 cents for every DVD sold, has remained unchanged even as home entertainment has boomed.

Officials of the Writers Guild stressed Thursday that they did not want directors to set their agenda.

"We wish them well, but they do not represent writers. Our strike will end when the companies return to negotiations and make a fair deal with the WGA," the guild said in a statement.

The guild further reiterated its demand that the studio alliance "immediately return to the negotiations, rather than going on vacation, so that this town can be put back to work."

..............................

Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITORS BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

Rupert Murdoch: Strike Won't Last Long... Or Maybe it Will

"It's not going to last as long as everybody says. But if it does, it does. We're prepared." That's News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch's latest take on the WGA strike, as shared during a Thursday appearance on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto. "I would be hopeful we will have everybody back at work fairly soon," he continued, "but maybe [it will be] a few months."

Murdoch, as is his wont, also characterized the WGA's latest arguments as "rhetoric" depicting the two sides as "big, fat companies and us poor writers, as though they really want to change to some sort of Socialist system and drag down the companies."

What's your take? "Fair and balanced"?

Posted by TV Guide Staff 12/14/07 10:46 AM

WGA Files Complaint with National Labor Relations Board; AMPTP Responds

What's the saying

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David Letterman Seeks Deal with Writers

'Late Show' host's company may negotiate directly with WGA

By Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times

December 17, 2007

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David Letterman

NEW YORK -- David Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, jumped at the chance Saturday to negotiate independently with the Writers Guild of America, saying it was eager to make a deal with its striking writers and get new episodes of its late-night shows back on the air.

The move by Worldwide Pants, which produces "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," could bolster the union's efforts to break apart the alliance of studios and networks with which it has been at loggerheads.

Hours after the union told its members it would try to break the logjam by dealing with individual companies, Worldwide Pants chief executive Rob Burnett said the company would take the guild up on its offer.

"Because we are an independent production company, we are able to pursue an interim agreement with the guild without involving CBS in that pursuit," Burnett said in a statement. He added that the company told the WGA when the strike started that it would be willing to make such a deal consistent with the guild's demands: "It is our strong desire to be back on the air with our writers, and we hope that will happen as soon as possible."

CBS, which broadcasts the two late-night shows, said it respected Worldwide Pants' desire to help its employees. But network spokesman Chris Ender said that "should not confuse the fact that CBS remains unified with the [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] and committed to working with the member companies to reach a fair and reasonable agreement with the WGA."

WGA officials did not have an immediate response as to how quickly negotiations with the company could proceed.

Bill Scheft, a veteran Letterman writer and the program's WGA strike captain, greeted Saturday's developments with relief. "This would be too good to be true," he said. "It's totally pro-writer, which is what Dave has been throughout. Ideally, other people would then fall in line."

On Saturday, guild officials sent members a letter detailing their new strategy, which they plan to present to individual studios on Monday.

"We want to do everything in our power to move negotiations forward and end this devastating strike," the guild's negotiating committee wrote. "The internal dynamics of the [alliance] make it difficult for the conglomerates to reach consensus and negotiate with us on a give-and-take basis."

An AMPTP spokesman dismissed the union's tactic, saying the guild was "grasping for straws" and that its members were unified.

The deal would be a major boon to Letterman, allowing him to return to the air with his writing staff at a time when his rivals are sidelined.

The CBS host is in a better position to make an individual deal with the WGA than late-night hosts Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, whose programs are owned by their networks.

They may return to the air without their writers -- a move considered likely to happen after the new year -- but could face problems getting guests to cross the picket line.

Since the strike began, all the late-nights hosts have worked to ensure that their non-writing staffs continued to get paid, with many doling money out of their own pockets. It's unclear how long they would be able to continue doing so; Letterman alone has been spending $300,000 a week on payroll.

For the last six weeks, the Letterman show writers have been a constant presence on the New York picket lines and have produced a lively blog about the labor stoppage.

Scheft said that while the show's writers would be thrilled to be back at work, "you think about all the people still left on the line."

"The longer it's gone on, the more I believe in what we're doing," Scheft said.

Late-Night Lights Back On at NBC

'Tonight Show,' 'Late Night' resume Jan. 2

December 17, 2007

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Conan O'Brien

After two months off the air in support of their union and their writers, NBC's late-night hosts are going back to work in 2008.

The network announced Monday that both "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" will return with new episodes on Tuesday, Jan. 2. Both shows have been dark since the writers' strike began in early November as Leno and O'Brien supported the Writers Guild of America (both are members of the union).

Both men also make it clear that they continue to support the WGA, but in statements they also express concern for the rest of their shows' staffs. O'Brien and Leno have been paying staff salaries for several weeks, but continuing that indefinitely wouldn't have been possible.

"I have been and continue to be an ardent supporter of the WGA and their cause," O'Brien says. "My career in television started as a WGA member and my subsequent career as a performer has only been possible because of the creativity and integrity of my writing staff. ... Unfortunately, now with the New Year upon us, I am left with a difficult decision: Either go back to work and keep my staff employed or stay dark and allow 80 people, many of whom have worked for me for fourteen years, to lose their jobs."

Leno sounds a similar note in his statement: "Now that the talks have broken down and there are no further negotiations scheduled I feel it's my responsibility to get my 100 non-writing staff, which were laid off, back to work. We fully support our writers and I think they understand my decision."

Their return during a strike is not without precedent. As NBC notes in its own announcement, Johnny Carson kept "The Tonight Show" dark for two months during the 1988 writers' strike but returned in order to keep his staff from being laid off. The network chose its words carefully in trumpeting the resumption of the two shows.

"Both Jay and Conan have supported their writers during the first two months of this WGA strike and will continue to support them, says Rick Ludwin, NBC's executive vice president for late night and primetime series. "However, there are hundreds of people who will be able to return to work as a result of Jay's and Conan's decision" (180, by the count of the two hosts in their statements).

Whether the other network late-night hosts follow suit remains to be seen. David Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, is reportedly interested in working out its own deal with the Writers Guild for both CBS late-night shows. Jimmy Kimmel's ABC show and both "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central remain dark. Carson Daly, who's not a WGA member, restarted his NBC show earlier this month.

Just what writerless versions of "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night" will look like is an open question, even to the hosts. "I will make clear, on the program, my support for the writers and I'll do the best version of 'Late Night' I can under the circumstances," O'Brien says. "Of course, my show will not be as good. In fact, in moments it may very well be terrible. My sincerest hope is that all of my writers are back soon, working under a contract that provides them everything they deserve."

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TV GUIDE EDITORS BLOG, STRIKE WATCH

NBC's Writer-less Late Night Hosts Face Big Challenges

What will The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien be like without writers? "It's going to be hard," says Late Night executive producer Jeff Ross. "We have 12 writers here regularly. We haven't had those conversations yet. Obviously those shows will look a little different."

Ross and Tonight Show executive producer Debbie Vickers said in a Monday conference call that they both have surveyed publicists about which prospective guests will be willing to cross a picket line to come on the shows if the Writers Guild of America strike is still going on when Leno and O'Brien return to work on Jan. 2. "We've been on the phones with publicists for weeks," said Vickers. "January feels better then December did."

The hosts

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Courtesy of: TV GUIDE, TODAYS NEWS: OUR TAKE

People's Choice: First Awards Stricken by Strike?

The People

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Strike Forces People's Choice Revamp

Queen Latifah will still host a very different awards show

December 20, 2007

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People's Choice Awards host Queen Latifah

Concerns about the writers strike have apparently caused a format shift for the People's Choice Awards.

By mid-afternoon on Wednesday (Dec. 19), a number of media sources were reporting that the People's Choice Awards had been cancelled entirely. While that buzz was false, the annual populist kudosfest will have a very different look in its latest incarnation.

While the awards themselves haven't been cancelled, the People's Choice Awards will take place on Jan. 8 without its usual Shrine Auditorium ceremony and star-studded red carpet. Instead, Queen Latifiah will host a news magazine-style show featuring pre-taped acceptance speeches (winners are always notified in advance anyway) and celebrities answering questions from fans.

Fans can submit their questions starting Friday on the People's Choice website.

The writers strike, now in its seventh week, was set to impact the People's Choice Awards on a number of different levels. Not only did the WGA reportedly refuse to grant the show a waiver for scripted banter, the inevitable picket line would probably have deterred many (if not all) big names from attending.

CBS will still telecast the revamped People's Choice Awards as planned at 9 p.m. on Jan. 8.

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