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Hollywood producers make new offer to striking writers

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GARY GENTILE
November 30, 2007
— Hollywood studios presented a new contract offer to striking film and TV writers Thursday that the studios said would pay writers millions of dollars extra for shows created for the Internet.

But writers said some of the proposals amounted to rollbacks and said studios should adopt their counteroffer.


The Writers Guild of America said it asked for a recess in the talks until Tuesday to consider its options, but it called on members to continue picketing Friday and Monday.


The producers said the new offer, dubbed the “New Economic Partnership,” included payments for work shown on the Internet, the key sticking points in the talks.


“The entire value of the New Economic Partnership will deliver more than $130 million in additional compensation above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year,” the statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said.


The $130 million sum was over the life of the proposed three-year deal, producers said. No further details of the terms were released in the first statement since both sides imposed a media blackout Monday.


The guild countered with a lengthier response, saying the producers’ proposal only dealt with advertising-supported programs streamed for free and jurisdiction over shows created for the Web “and it amounts to a massive rollback.”


The writers said their plan, presented Thursday, would cost producers $151 million over three years.


“That’s a little over a 3 percent increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10 percent,” the statement said. “We are falling behind.”


The conflicting details and tone of the statements is confusing, said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer who served in the 1990s as an associate counsel for the writers guild.


“None of this computes,” Handel said. “It’s very difficult to analyze this in any rigorous way.”


Handel noted that, on the surface, the two sides seems to be only about $20 million apart.


The tone of the writers’ statement seems angry, Handel said, while the producers’ statement seemed more upbeat.


Handel said both sides should end the confusion by publishing the full details of the proposals.


David Kidd, a screenwriter from Glendale, said he was hopeful, but not overly optimistic, about what he described as an apparent “sweet offer” from producers.


“I don’t know what sweet is until I taste it,” Kidd said. “Nobody wants to go in and accept a bad offer.”


Meanwhile, protesting writers converged on NBC’s studios in suburban Burbank to rally against restarted production of the late-night show “Last Call With Carson Daly.”


Several people said Daly circled the Burbank lot before entering a gate with no pickets.


Adam Waring, who has written for the sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” said he and two other writers dashed around a corner to intercept Daly.


“We stood in front of his car, and he told his driver to keep going,” Waring said, adding that protesters had to move out of the way.


“Last Call” was the first late-night show to resume production since the strike began Nov. 5. The walkout has also idled production on many scripted television series.


Daly has defended the move, saying he still supports the writers but did not want to see all 75 members of his staff and crew lose their jobs because of the work stoppage.


Protesters at NBC carried signs reading, “Carson Daly Please Don’t Cross” and “Carson Daly Please Support Us.”


Among them was Joe Medeiros, 56, head writer on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He said union members were disappointed with Daly’s break in solidarity.


“All the other late-night hosts are holding firm,” Medeiros said. “That’s what they need to do to solve this in a timely manner.”


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Associated Press Writer Solvej Schou contributed to this report. Raquel Maria Dillon in Burbank also contributed.



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