December 6, 2007 / 5:36 AM / 11 years ago

Striking writers sound upbeat note on latest talks

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Striking screenwriters and Hollywood studio executives ended a second straight day of contract talks on Wednesday on the most upbeat note yet during the month-old walkout.

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

“For the last two days, we have had substantive discussions of the issues important to writers, the first time this has occurred in this negotiation,” the Writers Guild of America said in a statement as talks adjourned for the day.

“However, we are still waiting for the (studios) to respond to all of our proposals,” the union said, adding that the two sides would return to the bargaining table for a third day in a row on Thursday morning.

The union’s conciliatory tone was the strongest sign yet that progress was being made toward reaching a deal to end the strike, which began on November 5 after months of rancor over how much screenwriters should be paid for work shown on the Internet.

It has become the worst labor crisis to hit the U.S. film and TV industry in 20 years, halting production on dozens of TV shows, including most of the major networks’ prime-time series, as well as several high-profile movies, including a planned sequel to “The Da Vinci Code.”

Thousands of non-writing film and TV workers have been idled, along with the 10,500 WGA members on picket lines.

The writers’ Wednesday statement contrasted sharply with the antagonistic stance the union took when an earlier four-day round of talks broke off last week with the WGA dismissing a new set of proposals on from the studios as a “massive rollback.”

The parties renewed the talks five days later, on Tuesday, and the WGA presented a counteroffer on payments for Internet streaming of television shows and movies.

The writers’ demands have focused on a greater share of revenue for content distributed via the Internet, since it is widely seen as the delivery pipeline of choice for most filmed entertainment in the not too distant future.

The WGA said on Wednesday the two sides also discussed proposals for establishing union jurisdiction over original content created especially for the Internet, as well as reality TV, animation, basic cable and contract enforcement issues.

The studios’ bargaining entity, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, also struck an upbeat note in its own end-of-the-day statement.

“We believe that there is common ground to be found between the two sides that will put all of us in the entertainment industry in a better position to survive and prosper,” it said.

The two sides do not appear that far apart in terms of sheer dollar figures.

The producers’ alliance has put the entire value of its compensation package at more than $130 million in new earnings for writers over three years.

The union has challenged that figure as artificially high while pressing a plan of its own that it says would cost film and TV industry $151 million more than it currently pays over three years.

Members of the Writer's Guild walk the picket line on 6th Avenue near the headquarters of HBO in New York, December 6, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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