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Writers Guild Chief Blasts Media Over Coverage of Christopher Keyser

David Young, longtime executive director of the Writers Guild of America West, blasted news media coverage about negotiating committee co-chair Christopher Keyser.

Young, in a message to members on Thursday, unleashed a pointed attack on the coverage by accusing publications of lying, and being “histrionic” and “biased” in stories about Keyser shopping a new series co-produced by Endeavor Content — an affiliate of WME and one of the many WGA targets in its efforts to revamp the rules on how agents represent guild members.

Variety noted in its story that Keyser’s business ties to Endeavor Content have been criticized by many WGA members who are concerned about the guild’s handling of the agency negotiations, which cratered on April 12. Keyser told Variety that the guild has not asked members to sever business ties with agency-affiliated production entities and that the WGA made a decision to allow members to work with Endeavor Content, CAA-affiliated Wiip and UTA-affiliated Core Media Group, as signatories to the guild’s master contract.

WGA leaders told members to fire their agents on April 12 if they had not signed the guild’s code of conduct, which bars agencies from taking packaging fees and participating in affiliate ownership. Five days later, the WGA sued WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners in California state court, alleging illegal conduct in collecting packaging fees.

Young noted in the letter that WGA members aren’t being asked to leave their jobs, nor is any writer asked to undo a deal or a packaging agreement that was made prior to April 13, when the guild’s Working Rule 23 went into effect.

“We are now being asked by a histrionic, biased trade press to question if a packaging deal that was in place months or years ago, or a writer deal with an agency-affiliated studio, in place before April 13th, is something that constitutes a violation of WR23, or at least bad ‘optics,'” he said. “This is invidious propaganda, fed in this case by information available only to WME, that attempts to frame WGA member leadership, in this case Chris Keyser.”

“If the inferences were true, the Guild would be asking every showrunner/creator with a packaging deal in place prior to April 13th to renege on that deal,” he added. “There is no legal basis for doing that. Should we expect Chris Keyser to breach an existing contract because he has given thousands of volunteer hours to the WGA on behalf of writers?”

Young also said, “I ask you as members to see through the lies and to reject the phony legitimacy of manipulated ‘optics.’ Writers are willing to consider any criticism of the Guild, and that is a great characteristic.”

The sides agreed last week to resume negotiations, but the WGA has not responded to a proposal by the agents this week to meet on June 7. The agencies, represented by the Association of Talent Agents, have suggested the sides break off into small working groups before convening a formal negotiating session.

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