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WGA Outlines Its Contract Demands ... For 2004

15 May, 2001 By: Hive News

With the ink barely dry on their new contract with film and television producers, Writers Guild of America executives say issues that went unresolved during the recent round of negotiations could raise the specter of writers strikes in 2004 and beyond.''Our industry is changing rapidly and this is only the first of what is likely to be a series of difficult contract negotiations over the next ten years,'' WGA West president John Wells and WGA East president Herb Sargent said jointly in a letter to guild members that was posted on the WGA's Web site Friday. ''And we will have to return to the table in three years to advance a number of areas we were unable to make progress on in these talks, foremost among them; animation, basic cable and videocassettes/DVDs.''WGA negotiators were unable to achieve the restructuring they sought of the residuals formulas for TV shows that are rerun on basic cable and for films distributed on videocassette and DVD.Guild leaders said they came close to asking members for the authority to call a strike over these issues as the deadline for the current contract talks came and went at midnight on May 1. But the guild finally decided not to strike over DVD and videocassette residuals because they believe those markets will largely be supplanted in the future by new technologies such as video-on-demand.Rather than try to change the 16-year-old videocassette formula, guild negotiators insisted on a new VOD formula -- one that will give writers a bigger share of revenues when their films are distributed directly into viewers' homes.''If VOD and other types of Internet delivery develop as expected, the richer...(VOD) formula will produce residuals to writers that will far surpass the $25 million currently collected annually'' under the existing videocassette and DVD formula, the WGA negotiating committee said in its own statement on the Web site.WGA leaders say that three years from now they will try to rectify what they believe are inequities in the videocassette residuals formulas. While a drop in video revenue might lessen their resolve to go to war over the residual formula, the reuse of TV programs shown on basic cable is expected to remain a burning issue for writers in 2004.Barry Liden, a spokesman for the studios and networks, declined to comment on the WGA's latest statements.''We're respecting their process,'' Liden said. ''We're not going to make any comments until after the WGA members have had an opportunity to review and vote on the contract.''The WGA is currently soliciting pro and con statements about the current contract, and will be mailing out ratification ballots later this month. With the unanimous support of the negotiating committee, the contract is expected to be ratified overwhelminly by the guilds' members on June 4.The contract is expected to put an additional $41 million into the pockets of writers over the next three years. That's an increase of slightly more than 1 percent over the $1.25 billion writers currently receive each year.Meanwhile, negotiations for a new actors contract, will begin on May 15. On Monday, the Screen Actors Guild (news - web sites) and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (news - web sites) will hold a press conference to outline ''the theme'' of those upcoming talks. AMPTP president Nick Counter met with representatives of SAG and AFTRA today to outline a self-imposed ''media blackout'' that will go into effect on Tuesday.

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