Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Federal Mediator Tries to Help Avoid Writer's Strike

A federal mediator was trying to help Hollywood writers and producers reach a last-minute deal Wednesday on a new contract, hoping to help them avert a strike that could slow production of new TV shows and films.

Talks between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Writers Guild of America were set to resume Wednesday, the last day of their current agreement.

The 12,000-member writer's guild said in a statement Tuesday it was ready to present an updated proposal to producers.

A key issue involves giving writers more money from the sale of DVDs and the distribution of shows via the Internet, cell phones and other digital platforms.

The federal mediator joined the talks in an effort to break a stalemate. The mediator will be present when talks resume Wednesday and the WGA presents its new proposal.

Producers said they would be open to the plan, but would not agree to anything that would restrict their ability to experiment with new digital delivery options for films and TV shows.

"We will not ignore the challenges of today's economic realities, the shifts in audience taste and viewing habits and the unpredictability of still-evolving technology," the producers' union said in a statement.

Major Hollywood unions were lining up behind TV and film writers. A powerful branch of the Teamsters union told its 4,500 members they can honor picket lines if TV and film writers strike after their contract expires at midnight.

Teamsters Local 399 said in a Web posting that as a union, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts with producers, but the local, which represents truck drivers, casting directors and location managers, said the clause does not apply to individuals, who are protected by federal law from employer retribution if they decide to honor picket lines.

A strike by writers would not immediately impact TV or film production. Most shows have enough scripts in hand to get them though early next year.

After that, networks might turn to reality shows, news programs and reruns to fill the airwaves.

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