Hollywood writers went on strike on Monday after a last-ditch effort failed to solve a dispute with producers over revenue from new media such as shows distributed over the Internet.
The strike came after talks between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), with a federal mediator present, broke off Sunday night without a resolution.
As scheduled, the writers set up picket lines outside major Hollywood studios beginning at 9 a.m.
AMPTP President Nick Counter issued a statement expressing disappointment that the strike was going forward.
"Notwithstanding the fact that negotiations were ongoing, the WGA decided to start their strike in New York," Counter said. "When we asked if they would` stop the clock' for the purpose of delaying the strike to allow negotiations to continue, they refused."
In a statement released late last night, the WGA said the guild "completely withdrew its DVD proposal," which the studios said was a major stumbling block.
The writers initially wanted a bigger cut of DVD sales, as well as payment for shows distributed via the Internet, but the AMPTP rejected the demand.
"Every issue that matters to writers, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction, has been ignored," WGAW President Patric M. Verrone said earlier.
He asserted that as the industry's revenue from new media grows, the writers' share is shrinking.
"Rather than address our members' primary concern, the studios made it clear that they would rather shut down the town than reach a fair and reasonable deal," he said.
In an earlier statement, AMPTP asserted the WGA's call for a strike was "precipitous and irresponsible."
According to AMPTP, last year, WGA West writers made in excess of US$56 million in additional compensation from DVD residuals, and their DVD proposal would have more than doubled the cost to producers.
The producers also said "the WGA leadership continues to mischaracterize the current provisions for compensation in new media. When a consumer pays to view a TV program or a feature film for a limited period of time, the writer gets a residual. When the consumer pays for a permanent download of a TV program or feature film, the writer gets a residual.
Picket lines are expected to go up at 9 AM at 15 television and movie studio lots from the West Coast to East Coast.
WGA members are being asked to picket in four-hour shifts, starting at 9 AMand 1 PM, outside studios or offices where they work.
The bi-coastal guild claims about 12,000 members, about 4,000 of whom are in New York, where picketing is also planned by members of the WGA, east.
Primetime programming is unlikely to be affected until January. Producers, anticipating a strike, have stockpiled shows and scripts.
A WGA strike in 1988 was the last to cause a major disruption in the entertainment industry. It lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry an estimated US$500 million.
(Xinhua News Agency November 6, 2007)