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Hollywood striking writers drop key demands
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Hollywood's striking writers have agreed to drop two key demands that studios and television networks have long viewed as non-starters, signaling a possible thaw in the 3 month-old labor dispute, union officials said Wednesday.

The writers' union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represent major studios and TV networks in negotiations, said in a joint statement that they were meeting to determine whether there is enough common ground to resume formal negotiations.

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reportedly told top studio chiefs during a meeting Tuesday that they would ditch previous proposals to unionize writers who work on animated movies and reality TV shows, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That marks a switch from December, when writers balked at studio demands to take those and other proposals off the table as a condition for continuing talks on the core issue -- how much writers should earn when their work is delivered over the Internet, cellphones and other new-media devices.

Securing the union's jurisdiction in the burgeoning reality TV sector has been a priority for WGA leaders. However, the union's leaders said a letter to members that they made the decision in hopes of "bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations."

In what appears to be an effort to defuse tension, the union urged members to "exercise restraint in their public statements." Previous negotiations between the two organizations had been marred by vitriolic rhetoric on both sides.

The current informal discussion appear to be an attempt to mirror the actions of the Directors Guild of America, which had a series of informal talks with studios before entering into contract talks earlier this month. Those talks took only several days before a tentative contract was reached last week.

In stark contrast, the WGA has been on strike since November, and no talks have been held since early December. Even the most optimistic people believe it will take at least two weeks to work out a WGA deal -- a scenario that would allow the annual Academy Awards to proceed its February 24 ceremony without striking writers' picket lines.

Screen Actors Guild leaders have warned that actors will not cross WGA picket lines to attend the Oscar ceremony at the Kodak Theater. They also downplayed optimism about the directors' deal being used to reach pacts with the writers and actors.

Meanwhile, the WGA earlier has decided that there would be no picketing at the Grammy Awards, clearing the path for some performers who might not have crossed a picket line to attend the February 10 event.

But the union has still to decide whether it will grant The Recording Academy a requested waiver that would allow its members to work on the Grammy ceremony. WGA officials have said previously they likely would not grant such a waiver.

The union's refusal to grant a waiver to the Golden Globe Awards forced the cancellation of the usually star-studded ceremony on Feb. 13. The awards' winners were instead announced in a 30-minute news conference.
(Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2008)

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