TV producers say
they expect writers to return to work as early as
Wednesday now that the Writers Guild of America has moved to
end its three-month-old strike. Membership meetings
were held Tuesday in New York City and Los Angeles,
said Patric Verrone, president of the guild's West
On Sunday, guild
leaders recommended a tentative three-year contract to
members and asked them to vote separately on a quick end to
''This is the
best deal this guild has bargained for in 30 years,''
Verrone said. The tentative contract secures writers a share
of the burgeoning digital-media market, he said,
including compensation for Internet-delivered TV shows
(producers) get paid, we get paid. This contract makes that
a reality,'' Verrone said. But he added, ''It is not
all we hoped for, and it is not all we deserved.''
union's negotiating committee recommended Saturday that the
contract be accepted, and the West Coast guild's board of
directors and the East Coast guild's council agreed.
They called for a membership ratification vote, which
will be conducted by mail over about two weeks.
of the contract and the strike's end appeared likely. At
heavily attended membership meetings Saturday in New York
and Los Angeles, there was resounding support for the
proposed deal that could put TV and movie production
back on track, salvage the rest of the TV season, and
remove a boycott threat from this month's Oscars.
television viewers who ''tolerated three months of reruns
and reality TV.''
The guild's major
bargaining concession to studios was agreeing to take
unionization of animation and reality TV shows off the
table, Verrone said. The guild has said it still
intends to pursue those goals.
The Alliance of
Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents
the studios, said it had no comment Sunday on the guild's
The strike's end
would allow many hit series to return this spring for
what's left of the current season, airing anywhere from four
to seven new episodes. Shows with marginal audience
numbers may not return until fall, or could be
A minimum of four
weeks would be needed for producers to start from
scratch with their first post-strike episodes of comedies
and get them on the air, industry members said. A
drama would require six to eight weeks from concept to
''It will be all
hands on deck for the writing staff,'' said Chris Mundy,
coexecutive producer of CBS's drama Criminal
Minds. He plans to get a couple of scripts in the
pipeline right away and hopes for about seven episodes
to air by the end of May. ''It's a real balancing
act,'' he said, ''to get up and running as fast as
possible but not let the quality slip.''
The strike, the
first in 20 years for the writers guild, began November 5
and included bitter exchanges between the guild and the
producers alliance. Talks collapsed in December.
In January, the
studios reached an agreement in separate negotiations
with the Directors Guild of America. Top media company
executives, including Peter Chernin of News Corp. and
Robert Iger of the Walt Disney Co., asked the writers
to resume bargaining.
What were termed
informal talks between the executives and guild leaders
led to the tentative contract that writers will be voting
East and West Coast guilds represent 12,000 writers, with
about 10,000 of those involved in the strike. It has cost
the Los Angeles-area economy alone an estimated
$1 billion or more.
Based on the
guild's summary of the deal, it is similar to the agreement
reached with directors. It provides union jurisdiction over
projects created for the Internet based on certain
guidelines, sets compensation for streamed,
ad-supported programs, and increases residual payments for
downloaded movies and TV programs.
Writers would get
a maximum flat fee of about $1,200 for streamed
programs in the deal's first two years and then get a
percentage of a distributor's gross in year three --
the last point an improvement on the directors' deal,
which remains at the flat payment rate.
The writers and
directors guild deals both include a provision that
compensation for ad-supported streaming wouldn't kick in
until after a window of 17 to 24 days deemed
''promotional'' by the studios.
Some writers have
balked at that, saying Internet traffic is heaviest in
the first few days. (AP)