Striking writers, studios renew talks as hopes fade

Tue Dec 4, 2007 8:57pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Striking film and television writers returned to the bargaining table with studio executives on Tuesday amid fading optimism for a speedy settlement to Hollywood's worst labor crisis in 20 years.

The two sides resumed contract negotiations as 10,500 members of the Writers Guild of America hit the one-month mark of a walkout that has idled production on dozens of TV shows and several high-profile movies, including a planned sequel to "The Da Vinci Code."

Prospects for a quick deal seemed to soar when the parties agreed last month to renew formal negotiations for the first time since the strike began on November 5 after months of rancor over how much writers should be paid for their work on the Internet.

But hopes were soon dashed as the resulting four-day round of talks ended last Thursday with union leaders lifting a media blackout to sharply criticize a management offer touted by the studios as groundbreaking.

Studio executives reacted with dismay, disparaging union leaders in a wave of published but anonymous comments as being more interested in stoking antagonism than in making a deal.

The studios' bargaining entity, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, struck a more conciliatory tone in an open letter that ran on Tuesday as an advertisement in the entertainment trade paper Daily Variety.

"Ours is not a 'take it or leave it' offer," the AMPTP statement said. "It is designed to allow both sides to engage in the kind of substantive give-and-take negotiation that can lead to common ground."

The WGA was expected this week to present a counteroffer.   Continued...

<p>Supporters and members of the Writers Guild of America picket outside the News Corp building in New York, December 4, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>