More Details on the WGA-AMPTP Agreement

Posted on February 4, 2008

The L.A. Times has more details about the WGA-AMPTP deal that would end the writers' strike. Because there is a press blackout, no one is speaking on the record, but inside sources say that the deal will be finalized by Friday and presented to the WGA Board of Directors. If the board approves it, the strike ends, even though members still have to ratify it. That means the Oscars are back on and that production on television shows and films can begin immediately.
Progress had been made in previous meetings on payment for work sold online, but Friday's session saw a breakthrough on the most contentious issue: compensation for the free streaming of films and TV programs over the Internet.

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Attorneys from the studios and the guild were meeting over the weekend to discuss contract language for the proposed agreement, which would need to be ratified by the union's 10,500 members. Even before a vote by members, the strike would probably be called off if board members strongly endorse the deal.

There are some issues that have yet to be resolved, including defining what qualifies as promotion on the Internet. The debate centers on the extent to which networks can run video clips and other materials on their websites to promote TV programs before paying writers.

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Writers made some important concessions of their own earlier when they dropped demands to unionize work on animated movies and reality TV shows -- both of which had been viewed as non-starters by the studios.
The WGA negotiators are going to brief the 17-member negotiating committee and board of directors about the proposed deal today. If they like what they hear, things will move forward this week. The sticking point could be what constitutes "promotional" showing of shows on the Internet. How many times can a show (or part of a show) be shown before writers get paid? The AMPTP and the WGA have been very far apart on this issue to date.