- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2008

LOS ANGELES Striking Hollywood screenwriters said today they had agreed a deal to settle their three-month old dispute and could be back at work Monday if it meets with union members’ approval.

Leaders of the 12,000-strong Writers Guild of America emailed members early Saturday to inform them an agreement with studio chiefs had been reached which would be discussed at meetings in New York and Los Angeles.

“We have a tentative deal,” said WGA leaders Patric Verrone and Michael Winship told members, adding the time had come to settle the crippling dispute, which has forced the cancellation of several television series and films.

“An ongoing struggle against seven multinational media conglomerates, no matter how successful, is exhausting, taking an enormous personal toll on our members and countless others … Continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks,” they said. “The time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike.”

WGA members met in Los Angeles and New York to discuss the plan, before the guild’s board meets to approve the deal tomorrow.

“I believe it is a good deal. I am going to be recommending this deal to our membership,” Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, told reporters before the New York meeting at a Times Square hotel.

The agreement was reached after a breakthrough in negotiations on the thorny issue of how to share out profits from sales of films and television shows sold via the Internet, the key sticking point of the dispute.

The proposed new contract would run through May 2011 and would give writers who are paid to set scales increases of around 3 percent per year.

According to the guild’s summary, the deal provides union jurisdiction over projects created for the Internet based on certain guidelines, sets compensation for streamed, ad-supported programs and increases residuals for downloaded movies and TV programs.

The writers deal is similar to one reached last month by the Directors Guild of America, including a provision that compensation for ad-supported streaming doesn’t kick in until after a window of between 17 to 24 days deemed “promotional” by the studios.

Writers would get a maximum $1,200 flat fee for streamed programs in the deal’s first two years and then get a percentage of a distributor’s gross in year three the last point an improvement on the directors deal, which remains at the flat payment rate.

“Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success.”

Writers went on strike Nov. 5 after talks between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) collapsed. The strike sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, with estimated losses running into hundreds of millions of dollars. It also severely disrupted Hollywood’s annual awards season, leading to the cancellation of the Golden Globes awards and casting a shadow over preparations for the Feb. 24 Oscars.

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