WGA lays into Fremantle

Guild attacks over 'Temptation'

Taking a feisty tone as it re-launches contract talks, the WGA has attacked FremantleMedia over its refusal to give the Guild coverage of the gameshow “Temptation.”

The WGA staged a noisy demonstration Tuesday morning outside Tribune Studios in Hollywood — where “Temptation” is produced — in support of the four writers who left the show Aug. 28 over lack of WGA coverage. WGA West exec director David Young and president Patric Verrone were among approximately 50 picketers.

The WGA’s move came on the eve of what’s expected to be a contentious bargaining session today at Guild headquarters with studios and nets, two months after talks broke off. Part of the WGA’s proposal includes expansion of jurisdiction into animation, reality and gameshows; the guild estimates it covers about half the TV gameshows on the air.

“We were working 14 to 18 hours a day for two months and they still didn’t want to give us a contract,” said Aaron Solomon, who had been senior producer on the quiz show.

Solomon, who functioned as head writer, noted that he and the other three writers had worked previously on WGA-covered gameshows such as “Show Me the Money,” “Pyramid” and “1 vs. 100.” He said that 76 of the 170 “Temptation” episodes had been scripted at the time that the writers walked out.

“I was so worn out and sick that I’d been on antibiotics for the last 10 days of the show,” added Rosemarie Di Salvo, one of the other writers. “Fortunately, I had WGA health benefits from previous gameshows I’d worked on, so Fremantle was getting a free ride on that.”

The writers and WGA reps also said Tuesday that Fremantle execs had refused repeated requests to meet to discuss the issue of WGA jurisdiction — an assertion strongly denied by Freemantle exec VP/general counsel David Shall.

“We are not refusing to negotiate,” Shall added. “We haven’t been given the opportunity despite repeated attempts to communicate with the WGA.”

WGA West assistant exec director Jeff Hermanson disputed Shall’s version, asserting Fremantle has never responded to the Guild’s Aug. 27

demand for recognition letter.

Both sides agreed on the details of Monday’s events: A WGA delegation of eight writers and execs sought a meeting with Fremantle VP David Johnson at Fremantle’s office in Burbank and were turned away by Shall.

“They showed up unannounced,” Shall added. “That’s not the way we do business.”

Shall also said the show has since hired new writers. The first episodes began airing last week.

The WGA has employed similar confrontational techniques during the past two years since the guild leaders replaced long-time exec director John McLean with Young, whose background is in organizing the construction, hotel and garment industries.

The guild staged dozens of demonstrations last year in support of a dozen writers who walked off “America’s Next Top Model” in pursuit of WGA coverage. Producers of that skein wound up eliminating the writer slots.

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