Contract outlined in Hollywood writers strike

by Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

Hollywood's striking writers and major studios reached the broad outlines of a new employment contract, resolving key sticking points over how much writers should be paid for work that is distributed over the Internet, people familiar with the negotiations said today.

The progress moves the two parties closer to forging an agreement that could bring an end to a 3-month-old walkout.

A final contract could be presented to the Writers Guild of America's board as early as Friday, according to three people close to the talks who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. The strike would not be called off until the board ratifies a new contract.

Attorneys from the studios and the guild were meeting over the weekend to discuss contract language for the proposed agreement, which would need to be ratified by the union's 10,500 members.

Representatives of the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, declined to comment, citing a press blackout.

Both the writers and the studios have been under pressure to find a way to end Hollywood's costliest strike in two decades. The walkout has shut down scripted television production, causing thousands of job losses and threatening the upcoming television season. Production of pilots for the fall television season is scheduled to begin this month. The status of the Feb. 24 Academy Awards shows is also in limbo.

The writers began their strike Nov. 5 in a dispute largely over new-media pay. Talks were revived in early December before breaking down again.

The writers' agreement, released late Friday, is modeled after a contract reached last month by the directors. Relations between the directors and the studios were not nearly as contentious, allowing the two sides to agree on a new contract quickly. Under the deal, residual payments received by directors for films and TV shows sold online will double. The union also won jurisdiction over shows created for the Internet and established payments for shows that are streamed on advertising-supported Web sites.

A number of top writers, including several members of the Writers Guild's negotiating committee, have viewed the directors' pact as a flawed but workable model for their own agreement and had conveyed that message to guild leaders.

Many writers, however, complained that the directors' contract offered meager residuals on shows that were streamed and limited the union's jurisdiction over shows created for the Web. Progress in the talks suggested that studios may have improved the terms for writers in those areas.

Guild negotiators David Young, Patric M. Verrone and John Bowman are scheduled Monday to brief the union's negotiating committee board on the proposed deal.

article originally published at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-strike3feb03,0,3280280.story.

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