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Resids report goes to guilds

AMPTP looks to talk with scribe guild, avoid strike

The long-awaited report on residuals is in the hands of Hollywood’s key labor guilds, clearing the way for a decision as to whether to bargain early with producers.

The report, generated by the Assn. of Motion Picture and Television Producers, contains information about residuals, licensing fees and costs incurred for television programming. The document was produced as part of the settlement of contract negotiations between the AMPTP and the Directors Guild of America last year and in 1998 with the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

The Writers Guild of America has also been given the information even though it was not part of its contract deal in 1998. The WGA, which held a national board meeting earlier this week, has not yet responded to the question of agreeing to early negotiations with the AMPTP, which serves as the bargaining arm for the major studios and networks.

Insiders believe the document, designed to serve as a backdrop and guide to upcoming negotiations, will require several weeks of analysis before it can be used for negotiations. The report was issued to the orgs under a confidentiality pledge because of the proprietary nature of the information provided.

The WGA, which last struck in 1988 for 22 weeks, faces a contract expiration May 1. The notion of early negotiations is a potentially explosive issue since former Writers Guild of America West executive director Bryan Walton was ousted two years ago for his backing of fast-track talks because WGA hardliners complained that the process diminished the guild’s clout at the bargaining table.

Typical negotiations begin two or three months prior to a contract’s expiration but some key execs have indicated they favor starting earlier.

The WGA’s leaders have proclaimed the upcoming contract needs to significantly improve compensation in the cable, video made-for-pay, Internet and foreign markets; abolition of the possessory credit; and network residual rates by Fox, UPN and the WB. WGAW secretary-treasurer Michael Mahern has warned members to start saving money to ride out a possible strike next year.

SAG and AFTRA, which have been on strike against advertisers since May, will also face a decision soon on early negotiations since their TV-theatrical contract expires July 1.

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