Striking writers, studios back to finger-pointing

Fri Dec 7, 2007 7:46pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Days after sounding a brief note of conciliation, studios and striking screenwriters reverted to public finger-pointing on Friday as Hollywood's worst labor confrontation in two decades neared the end of its fifth week.

In an exchange of statements circulated to the media, each side accused the other of foot-dragging in contract talks that have bogged down in disagreement over how much the writers should be paid for work that is used on the Internet.

The Writers Guild of America went so far as to suggest some studios were willing to follow a kind of scorched-earth strategy that would inflict further damage on a television industry already thrown into disarray.

"We've heard that one or more of the companies are prepared to throw away the spring and fall TV season, plus features, and prolong the strike," WGA leaders said in their statement.

Studio insiders said they knew of no companies contemplating such a move. They denied union assertions the studios might be preparing to abruptly cut off the talks, and accuse the WGA of precipitating a collapse.

"If the talks do crumble, they want to point their fingers at us and blame us," one source told Reuters.

The latest public relations duel erupted as the WGA and the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, met for a fourth straight day of negotiations at an undisclosed Los Angeles hotel.

It remained unclear whether the parties would continue to bargain through the weekend.   Continued...

<p>Striking writers wear hats in the rain during at a Writers Guild of America rally at FreeemantleMedia in Burbank, California, December 7, 2007. FreemantleMedia produces reality television programs, and the writers guild is seeking to represent reality show writers. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>