Hollywood Writers Consider Strike Against TV Studios as Talks Stall
LOS ANGELES – Talks between Hollywood writers and studios abruptly broke off for the weekend, dimming hopes of averting a strike that could cripple the television industry.
The Writers Guild of America has been in talks since July with studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Negotiations lasted only about an hour on Friday and were not scheduled to resume until Tuesday.
In statements Friday, each side accused the other of intransigence and expressed frustration at the sluggish pace of negotiations.
The writers' contract expires Oct. 31. Studios and TV networks have accelerated filming of shows and movies and begun stockpiling scripts in case of a strike. The last strike in 1988 lasted 22 weeks, and losses to the industry were put at $500 million.
The sticking points include a proposal to delay paying residuals on movies and TV shows until producers have recouped their costs, guild negotiators said.
The guild also is proposing doubling payments on profits made from DVD sales and providing union pay and benefits to writers working in reality television and on basic cable shows.
The two sides also remain far apart when it comes to setting pay for reality TV shows, and for work distributed online and to portable devices such as cell phones.
The studios say they need time to determine which models of digital distribution are likely to be profitable.
"We have had six across-the-table sessions and have been met with only silence and stonewalling," said J. Nicholas Counter III, president of the motion picture alliance.
"The WGA leadership is hidebound to strike. We are farther apart today than when we started, and the only outcome we see is a disaster," he said.
The writers decried the plan for residual payments.
"Our members will not stand for that," the guild said. "The entertainment industry is successful and growing like never before. Writers, whose creativity is at the heart of that success and growth, are committed to sharing in it."