Hollywood writers will strike, timing unclear

by PETER SANDERS and REBECCA DANA, Wall Street Journal

The Writers Guild of America's leadership late Thursday formally declared its intention to call a strike in the union's heated dispute with Hollywood film and television producers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The guild's leadership told members of their intentions at a general membership meeting in Los Angeles. The meeting was set to update members on contract talks with the studios that stalled out on Wednesday as the expiration of the guild's current contract passed. The boards of the guild's East and West Coast units will act on the strike recommendation on Friday.

A strike has looked increasingly likely in recent days as negotiations to broker a new deal made little progress. The timing of a walkout is still unclear, but probably wouldn't be before next week – leaving time for a possible settlement over the weekend. It would be the first major strike since a walkout in the late 1980s. Writers at the meeting were told to report to work as usual on Friday

The writers and studios are at loggerheads over a number of matters, primary among them the issue of how writers will be compensated for their work when it is distributed digitally for use on the Internet, mobile phones and iPods. Further complicating things, the guild is pushing for revisions in the compensation writers receive from DVD sales of their work; guild members have long chafed over a disadvantageous deal covering home entertainment that was struck in the 1980s.

In reaction to the guild's moves, the studios issued a statement from Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, saying the studios are "are not surprised by tonight's recommendation. We are ready to meet and are prepared to close this contract this weekend."

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