WGA, AMPTP set talks

Contract discussions will resume Sept. 19

Contract talks between showbiz writers and employers will resume Sept. 19 — two months after an acrimonious initial round of bargaining.

The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers announced Tuesday that negotiations would re-start at WGA West headquarters in Hollywood. Previous talks were held at AMPTP headquarters in Encino.

Neither side commented further on Tuesday — a sharp contrast from the bitter exchanges that marked the two days of negotiations in July. The start date means negotiators will have six weeks to make a deal before the current three-year pact runs out on Oct. 31.

Two weeks ago, the AMPTP proposed a Sept. 17 start date, but the Guild then proposed starting two days later. Doing so will allow the WGA West to

complete its election on Sept. 18; the WGA East will complete its election on Sept. 20.

The next round of contract talks are expected to be contentious and complex, particularly over the issue of how to compensate writers for work in the booming world of digital platforms. The July talks produced little other than rejection of proposals, finger-pointing and recriminations.

The AMPTP is proposing a revolutionary revamp of residuals, under which talent would be paid only after companies recouped their base costs. Top execs are asserting that pervasive uncertainties over how future revenues will accrue precludes maintaining the current residuals system, established in 1960.

The AMPTP also proposed an alternative — a three-year extension of the current contract in order to conduct an independent study that would sort out how to create appropriate compensation for writing amid the proliferation of new-media outlets. But it withdrew that proposal a day later, after the WGA rejected it and dismissed the idea as a stalling tactic.

For its part, the WGA is seeking to nail down specific contract language covering writing for digital platforms and reuses of its work. It’s also seeking expanded jurisdiction in animation, cable and reality, improved minimums and a doubling of the homevideo residuals rate.

The Guild also held a news conference after the second day of talks, in which members of its negotiating committee accused the companies of duplicity — crying poverty at the bargaining table while boasting of growing profits to Wall Street.

Many observers expect the WGA and the AMPTP — which serves as the negotiating arm for studios and networks — will not be able to reach a deal by the Oct. 31 expiration. If that occurs, it’s likely the WGA would tell members to continue to work under terms and conditions of the expired contract, in hopes that SAG and the DGA can reach a better deal, allowing the WGA to then incorporate those improvements into a new pact.

The SAG and DGA contracts expire June 30.

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