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Hollywood writers go on strike; late night TV to suffer first [Update]TV

Update: CNN has updated their article with the following, and I've updated this post's title to indicate that they are now officially on strike.
The Writers Guild of America board voted unanimously to strike as of 12:01 a.m. Monday (3:01 a.m. ET), officials said. The walkout will be the first in 20 years.


Apparently the Writers Guild of America, comprised of 12,000 film and TV writers, is threatening to go on strike because the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers is not meeting their demands for change. Basically they want increased revenue from DVD sales (they get 4 cents per DVD sold now and they want 8), and they want a cut of new distribution mediums - primarily internet content.

A couple of articles (CNN, Forbes) state that the strike will likely start on Monday, and would first affect late-night TV shows since they don't have pre-recorded content. Other primetime shows usually have filmed at least a week or two in advance, but shows like Letterman, The Daily Show, Leno, Conan, etc. would be the first to feel the burden of missing their writers. The shows would have to go off-air and show reruns.

A poster describing the strike to writers

Overall there's a bunch of finger-pointing which makes me wonder if this would get resolved anytime soon. Surely it can't be good for anyone if the fall season starts getting completely disrupted.
The labor impasse concerns royalties from DVD sales -- last negotiated in 1988. Writers also want royalties from the so-called new media -- all the various places their works are distributed, including Internet downloads.

"The future of TV is not going to look like what it's been for the last 30 years," said TV writer Dave Schiff, who has penned scripts for "King of the Hill" and "That '70s Show. So, you know it's not just for us who are currently working, but writers down the line, that we make sure that we get a ... piece of the pie."

But CBS President Nina Tassler said not enough is known yet about new media revenues. "We don't know what the pie is yet, in order to determine how to cut it up," she said recently.

Hollywood producers say the issues are non-starters. "We want to make a deal," Counter told the writers on Wednesday, according to a written statement. However, he added, "No further movement is possible to close the gap between us so long as your DVD proposal remains on the table."

Writers accuse producers of being nonresponsive. "After three and a half months of bargaining, the AMPTP still has not responded to a single one of our important proposals," a statement from the WGA said. "Every issue that matters to writers, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction, has been ignored. This is completely unacceptable."

TV writer Bryce Zabel said that producing companies "have decided to force the writers into a situation of a strike. Our choice right now is to accept a completely unacceptable deal or to go on strike," he said. "Strike is the only option."

The film industry has also been preparing for a possible strike. "Everyone is sort of madly scrambling to get scripts into production, sometimes a little ahead of what might otherwise be prudent," said Gavin Hood, director of the film "Rendition."
This is a prettty crazy situation, and I'm surprised I hadn't heard anything about it until today. Supposedly the WGA will actually announce when the strike begins sometime today, and then we'll have to see how long it lasts.

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