Scribe talks resume

Writers, studios getting together Tuesday

HOLLYWOOD — Negotiations between showbiz writers and studios will resume next week amid uncertainty over any prospects for a quick conclusion.

The talks, which began April 5 and recessed May 12, will resume Tuesday.

The possibility of prolonged negotiations remains strong, even though the Writers Guild of America contract expired May 2. The two sides remain far apart on a variety of complex issues and have not even agreed on how long the new contract should be, with the WGA having proposed a one-year deal and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers strongly in favor of another three-year term.

Though neither side has issued any public comment since May 12, those close to the talks believe that a clear resolution may be several more weeks away. They note that writers are working under terms of the expired contract and that the next wave of new jobs for scribes won’t take place until next month, when TV series move into production.

Though negotiations launched nearly two months ago, neither side has given any indication of wanting to pull the plug on the contract talks. The WGA has not taken a strike authorization vote and the AMPTP companies have not given any sign that they want to lock the writers out, even though such a step is permissible now that the contract has expired.

In addition, the AMPTP — which is the negotiation arm for studios and networks — has not yet made its “last, best and final” offer.

Between May 5-12, when the news blackout was lifted, the WGA spelled out the key differences in bargaining positions with the AMPTP:

  • The AMPTP has offered $10 million in increased health plan contributions while the WGA is seeking $42 million over the next three years.

  • The WGA wants the residual rate for videos and DVDs doubled, which amounts to about a nickel per disc sold. The studios have refused any increase and contend that DVD revenues are crucial to their financial health amid the soaring cost of filmmaking.

  • The WGA is asking for a higher residual rate on video-on-demand sales over the Internet, while the studios maintain that the rate should be the same as the current DVD rate.

  • The WGA is seeking jurisdiction over reality TV and animation while the networks are refusing.

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