The Writers Guild of America’s new contract will make groundbreaking gains in issues of interactive rights, creative squabbles with the Directors Guild of America and rate payments for the contentious Fox weblet, as well as the usual rate hikes, the guild announced Jan. 9.

The WGA released details of its recently agreed-upon pact with the Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers, and reported progress in such wide-ranging areas as placement of a writer’s credit at the beginning of a movie and the debate over whether a writer may view the final director’s cut of a pic.

The contract takes effect May 2 and runs through May 1, 1998.

“These agreements represent solid advancements for writers in both creative rights and economics,” said Frank Pierson, WGA West prexy, and Herb Sargent, WGA East president, in a statement. “The changes in onscreen placement of writers’ credits … and the recognition of the integral role of writers in the creative process demonstrates a growing understanding that it all begins with the writer.”

Guild officials were most pleased by new interactive coverage in the pact that will provide writers between 1.2% and 3% payment for clips and excerpts from their material used in interactive programs.

Payments will be based on the “applicable gross” of the material, meaning the amount of money that is paid to “exploit” the rights of the work.

The contract stipulates that interactive programs include those “viewed on a TV or computer screen via disc, cartridge, wireless or wire transmission, and arcade games.”

The contract is the first union pact to spell out how to address interactive rights.

“This is the first time the industry has dealt with the question of how you pay for interactive rights,” said Mona Mangan, exec director of the WGA East. “It’ll give people the lay of the land and show how much they have to start paying.”

In creative rights areas, the guild and the producers agreed to require that the writer’s onscreen credit immediately precede the directing credit.

Regarding the contested possessory credits – those that say “A film by… ” – the producers agreed to a four-year committee process that will address the issue, which has been a flashpoint with the Directors Guild of America. If no agreement has been reached by then, the producers will consider several options, including creating separate publicity on the films for the writers, contributing to a publicity fund and creating a “balancing credit” to appear in addition to the WGA-determined credit.

Writers also will be allowed to view a director’s cut of a film before, during or within 48 hours of the producer’s viewing. TV provisions will be similar in videocassette form.

As for Fox, the weblet will be required to pay full network primetime rates for programs produced for initial primetime telecast. It also will have to increase its syndication payments by 25% for each rerun. By 1996, the rate will go up another 10%.

The guild also bargained for rate hikes in its general categories for all initial compensation in theatrical TV. Increases will be 3% in the first year, 3.5% in the second and 4% in the third.

One noteworthy provision regarding spec script feature writers will force a senior studio production exec to discuss the writer’s continuing service on a project if the studio is contemplating replacing him. A similar clause will reduce the request for “so-called free rewrites” from writers of long-form telepix.

The producers will provide $200,000, to be matched by the guild, for an industrywide campaign for “greater appreciation” of the writer’s role in the creation of theatrical and telepix.

Other provisions in the contract include:

* More flexible rules for “reality” or “non-traditional programming” that will allow more WGA writers to be used.

* Notification by memo for theatrical writers as to where and to whom at the studio the material is to be delivered, and those persons authorized to request rewrites.

* Expanded employment opportunities for low-budget dramatic programs and non-traditional programming for basic cable.

* Expansion of the application of the current formula for basic cable resids.

* Clarified language regarding the monitoring of resids.

* An agreement to affirm the guild’s right to access producers’ books for resid audit purposes.

* Renewal of the Tri-Guild/Producers audit fund.

* Prompt and appropriate payment to writers for the use of excerpts.

* A new guild committee on the status of serial writers.

* A credits review committee to review credit provisions of the contract.

* Location expenses paid in advance on long-form TV projects.