No signs of a cease-fire on horizon

With the writers strike headed into its third month, there’s no signal of a cease-fire any time soon between the WGA and the majors.

Even the recent holiday break saw hostilities break out as the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers announced that its calculation of how much the eight-week strike has cost writers — $151.2 million — has topped the WGA’s calculation of the increase it had asked for at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, the WGA continued to pledge it will picket the Jan. 13 Golden Globes even though NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. haven’t wavered from their plans to go ahead with the event.

“If the Globes is telecast and it is produced by Dick Clark Prods., which is a struck company, we will picket the show,” guild strike coordinator Jeff Hermanson said.

The WGA also firmed plans for the February launch of Strike TV, an online channel featuring original video shows and operated by the guild.

The holiday break also continued the vacuum at the negotiating table, although the DGA will now be able to set a start date for its talks with the AMPTP — possibly as early as next week if the AMPTP has met the DGA’s condition that it can establish “an appropriate basis for negotiations.”

The AMPTP’s Dec. 28 announcement about strike costs continued to refer to guild leaders dismissively as “organizers.”

“It’s official: The people in charge at the WGA have led working writers into a strike that has now cost those working writers more in salary and benefits than the WGA’s organizers ever expected to gain from the strike,” the AMPTP statement said. “And the strike continues because the union’s leaders are focused on jurisdictional issues that would expand their own power, at the expense of the new media issues that working writers care most about.”

The AMPTP also posted a video about its announcement on the YouTube site (www.myspace.com/striketv) where WGA members and supporters have posted hundreds of pro-guild videos over the last two months.

The WGA responded within a few hours with a statement asserting that it’s the AMPTP’s fault for ditching negotiations on Dec. 7. That’s when the AMPTP insisted that six WGA proposals — including two on jurisdiction and one on sympathy strikes — had to be dropped as a condition of continuing the talks.

The WGA also insisted that the key issues involve new-media compensation.

“Big media walked away from the table and refuses to negotiate,” the guild said. “The media conglomerates know that the core issue in these negotiations is new media. Their current proposals would cause writers even more economic harm in the future than they claim this strike has caused. To sidestep this fact, they erroneously claim we are focused on other issues. The conglomerates are responsible for creating the economic havoc. They should put their energies into making a fair deal with writers rather than issuing misleading statements.”

The $151 million figure was issued Nov. 29 by the WGA at the conclusion of four days of negotiations. Talks collapsed a week later.

WGA leaders first announced plans for Strike TV at the Dec. 17 membership meeting. In a My Space posting, the organizers said they’ve invited active WGA members to submit proposals — with the goal of making shows that are 5 to 7 minutes long — with logline or short treatment, cast, production team, budget (if any) and delivery date.

Shows will be self-funded and owned by the creators. Any ad revenues will be given to the Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund to assist non-WGA members affected by the strike.

And at the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, the Fans4Writers support group sponsored a series of skywriting “billboards” during the early stages of the event — including Fans4Writers.com; Help a Writer Score; Save Your Shows; and Support the Writers. The action was funded via a silent auction that includes selling “Battlestar Galactica” scripts signed by the scribes.

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