Letterman to return in deal with striking writers

Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:16pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Late-night TV host David Letterman reached a deal on Friday with the union for striking screenwriters that will let his show return to the air next week while bringing his writing staff back with him.

The Writers Guild of America called its pact with Letterman's production company, WorldWide Pants Inc, a sign of union readiness to negotiate a deal with major film and TV studios to settle Hollywood's worst labor crisis in 20 years.

The WGA said its "comprehensive agreement" with WorldWide Pants included provisions to pay writers for work distributed over the Internet -- presumably covering the large assortment of advertising-supported video clips of Letterman's show that CBS posts on its Web site.

Compensation for Internet content has been the main sticking point in stalled talks between the WGA and studios aimed at ending the writers' strike, now in its eighth week.

The work stoppage by 10,500 WGA members has thrown the U.S. television industry into disarray, postponed production on several major motion pictures and is threatening to spoil Hollywood's annual awards season.

The Letterman's deal will pave the way for his "Late Show," and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," also owned by WorldWide Pants, to resume CBS broadcasts of fresh episodes with their writing staffs intact starting on Wednesday.

Letterman, who like his late-night peers on other networks has kept his show off the air and in reruns since November 5 in support of striking writers, said in a statement he was "happy to be going back to work, and particularly pleased to be doing it with our writers."

"This is not a solution to the strike, which unfortunately continues to disrupt the lives of thousands. But I hope it will be seen as a step in the right direction," he added.   Continued...

<p>David Letterman at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles September 18, 2005. Letterman has reached a deal with the union representing striking screenwriters that will let his show, return to the air next week with his writing staff, the union said on Friday. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>