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A serious fight is shaping up over writing for reality TV.

The Writers Guild of America, which has virtually no coverage in the booming sector right now, last week signaled the issue of jurisdiction will be a key bargaining point in upcoming contract negotiations.

The guild has launched a major push to organize those shows, signing 1,000 writers as potential members over the past four months.

“Reality programming is eating our lunch,” says WGA West secretary-treasurer Patric Verrone. “We’re obviously looking to do as much as possible, both with organizing and bargaining.”

The guild campaign centers on the premise that working non-union represents a major financial hit to scribes. Even the most prominent reality shows, such as “Survivor,” only match WGA minimums for upfront rates. And there are no residuals for reruns and merchandising and no pension and health contributions.

Producers haven’t flocked to give the WGA jurisdiction, asserting the shows are unscripted or on such tight budgets that they can’t afford to pay WGA rates. The WGA counters that cable nonfiction alone generated $2 billion in profits on $4.2 billion in revenues in 2001.

The current WGA contract expires May 1. No start date has been set for negotiations.