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Live from LA City Hall: A hearing on the strike’s economic impact

Cynthia Littleton is attending this morning’s hearing on the strike’s economic impact at Los Angeles City Hall. WGA West president Patric Verrone, WGA West exec director David Young and WGA negotiating committee chief John Bowman will appear before the Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee of the Los Angeles City Council, which is conducting the hearing.

(10:05 am) John Bowman, head of the WGA’s negotiating committee, got a big round of applause as he approached the podium.

Bowman told the council the WGA estimates a blow of $2.5 billion to the industry and local economy if the remainder of the 2007-08 TV season is scrapped. Bowman said a WGA survey found that among broadcast network sitcoms, most shows have six outstanding episodes to write and produce. Among dramas, there are seven outstanding episodes. Bowman said the WGA believes that most of the lost production could be made up in the first quarter of 2008 if strike ends soon.

“We remain at the negotiating table that they abandoned,” Bowman said of the AMPTP.

Council member Herb Wesson said the AMPTP declined to send a rep to the meeting, but did send a statement. 

(9:40 am) Steve MacDonald, head of film permitting org Film LA, told the council the strike is costing $135 million in lost production spending and has  cost about 10,000 jobs now that 52 dramas and 19 sitcoms have shut down. Macdonald emphasized that the strike’s hit on TV production is particularly bad for the local economy because the state of California has lost so much feature film production in recent years.

“Television in the past four to five years has become the prime driver of the entertainment economy in LA,” he said. “Because of the feature film activity lost, television is that much more important to us here in our economy.”

(9:19 am) “This strike will not kill the LA County economy, but it will act as a brake on the LA County economy,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the LA County Economic Development Corp. He was addressing members of the LA City Council as the first speaker in the hearing on the economic impact of the WGA strike .

Kyser told the council that showbiz generates $46.8 billion annually for the local economy and employs some 160,000 people. He estimated that the strike so far has cost the county some $220 million in lost spending since work stoppage began Nov. 5.

Kyser concluded by urging the sides to “get back to the negotiating table soon,” adding, “The pain is growing each day the strike goes on. That concerns us.”

(8:38 am) It’s an hour into the hearing and WGA issue still hasn’t come up. Council members are absolutely grilling a woman named Joan Ling about her reappointment to the Community Redevelopment Association. But it looks like the WGA matter will begin in about 10 minutes.

(7:51 am) The LA City Council hearing on the economic impact report of the WGA strike has drawn an overflow crowd. WGA member have been sent into an overflow room to listen to the hearing on a speaker – and it’s not exactly a state of the art sound system.

WGA strike captains are posted around city hall, telling the red shirts who are out in force on this drizzly morning to mind their manners and “don’t boo” when AMPTP reps speak at the hearing. WGA also plans a news conference later in the morning on a patio outside the hearing room on the third floor of city hall.

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