Guild, producers talk, but not to each other

The image war over the writers strike rages on — with no movement toward the bargaining table.

With the work stoppage in its eighth day, the WGA amped up the stakes Monday by mounting picket lines at more than a dozen lots at the crack of dawn, in hopes of turning away Teamster drivers.

Anecdotal reports indicate that significant numbers of drivers opted to honor the lines.

With schools out for Veterans Day, many strikers and supporters turned out with their children in tow. And the overall volume of pickets appeared to match those of the first week of the strike, when the WGA asserted that more than 3,000 supporters had walked the lines each day.

As for today, the WGA East will go to Wall Street because “media conglomerates keep boasting of their new media profits to shareholders while simultaneously crying poverty to writers.” On the West Coast, SAG is staging a “Picketing With the Stars” rally at noon at Universal, organized by showrunners and WGA negotiating committee members Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”) and Carol Mendelsohn (“CSI”).

But no new talks are scheduled, with both sides continuing to blast away at each other over the collapse of negotiations more than a week ago.

WGA East president Michael Winship sent a pointed letter to members, noting that guild members receive no residuals for streaming video — even though it earns studios and networks significant advertising revenue — because the companies claim its use is simply promotional.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers fired back in paid advertisements by asserting that when the WGA went on strike, there was an offer on the table to pay writers for Internet streaming.

The AMPTP noted in the ad — headlined “Setting the Record Straight” — that the companies are paying residuals on permanent digital downloads and pay-per-view digital downloads. The org, which acts as the negotiating arm for the companies, also said WGA West members received more than $260 million in residuals last year.

Winship asserted in his letter that the guild is asking for increases in its contract proposal that would amount to less than $200 million over its three-year term.

“By way of comparison, for the first three quarters of 2007, NBC Universal earned $2.2 billion, 5% more than the profit it recorded in the same period a year ago,” Winship said. “Over the same period, the overall profit of its parent company, General Electric, expanded 9%. GE’s revenues in the third quarter alone were $42.5 billion.”

Winship concluded the missive by noting that Mahatma Gandhi had been a labor organizer.

“He characterized the arc of a protest against power in a way that may feel familiar to anyone who has been involved in our battle, he said. ‘First, they ignore you,’ he said. ‘Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.’ We’re in the thick of the fight, not just for ourselves but for future generations, not just for writers but for everyone who labors in the entertainment industry. And we will win.”

In another development, a group of 17 Internet fan sites announced that they would go dark today in favor of posting a statement of solidarity with the WGA.

“The talented writers responsible for so much of what we love about television should and must be paid fairly and equitably, and we will stand with them until they reach that goal,” the statement concludes. “For everyone’s sake, and for the sake of television, we hope both sides can come to an agreement quickly.”

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