Feds side with WGA on Webisodes

Judge dismisses NBC U complaint

The federal government has sided with Writers Guild of America West in its dispute with NBC Universal TV over made-for-Internet content.

The guild announced Wednesday that an administrative law judge for the Natl. Labor Relations Board had dismissed the complaint by NBC U alleging the guild had violated labor law by telling showrunners not to cooperate in the production of Webisodes for “Crossing Jordan,” “Heroes” and “The Office.”

NBC first announced in August it was going to the NLRB with the complaint, which sought an injunction against the WGA West. Net asserted that the guild was violating labor law by telling showrunners not to provide supervisory services for the Webisodes because the guild lacks jurisdiction over supervisory services.

But the WGA contended that NBC U had mis-characterized its actions and asserted that the Webisodes represented separate writing work from work on the series and should be covered separately by its minimum basic agreement. The WGA West also took the position that its members were eager to perform this new work, and that the guild was merely insisting on negotiating fair employment terms to ensure appropriate pay, benefits, and other protections.

In the fall, the NLRB issued a formal complaint, which was tried before Judge Gregory Z. Meyerson in December. In the ruling, Meyerson found “a total absence of probative evidence that the Union ‘restrained or coerced’ the showrunners from acting in their capacities as representatives of the Employers for the purpose of collective bargaining.”

The guild indicated Wednesday that it will continue pushing for a deal covering the writing work. WGA West exec director David Young said in a statement, “Our focus remains on reaching a fair, negotiated settlement for work in these new technology markets – to the mutual benefit of writers and the companies for which they work.”

In reaction, NBC U said Wednesday, “While we disagree and are disappointed with the judge’s decision, we are pleased that it serves to clarify that the Guild cannot prevent showrunners from providing the type of supervisory services necessary to create Web Content.”

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