December 28, 2007 / 10:04 PM / in 10 years

Striking writers union reaches deal with Letterman

<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>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Late-night TV comedian David 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.

The agreement between the Writers Guild of America and Letterman’s production company, WorldWide Pants, came as doubts grew that one of Hollywood’s premier awards show, the Golden Globes, would go on as usual due to plans by striking writers to picket the event.

A source close to the awards show said the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Globes, was considering the possibility of canceling the live TV broadcast of the January 13 event so that the ceremony could proceed without WGA protests.

WGA members are barred from working on any TV programs the union considers “struck productions,” which include telecasts of awards shows and late-night series.

Moreover, a number of celebrity performers have publicly expressed reservations about crossing picket lines to attend awards shows or to appear as guests on talk shows. The WGA has even said it plans to picket Hollywood’s biggest night of all, the Oscars on February 24, unless the strike is settled by then.

One WGA executive, Jeff Hermanson, said the union was organizing a “massive presence” of its members outside the Golden Globe awards, and “we expect to have some of the nominees and award winners on our picket line.”

A spokeswoman for the Screen Actors Guild said its informal canvass of Globe nominees found that “the majority of them are indicating that they will not cross picket lines.”

The NBC network, which is scheduled to air the show, declined to comment.

LETTERMAN WILL HAVE HELP WITH JOKES

Letterman, who has kept his CBS “Late Show” off the air and in reruns since November 5 in support of striking writers, had said through representatives that he wanted to return on January 2 with fresh broadcasts, and his writing staff intact, if his company could reach agreement with the union to do so.

Negotiations between the WGA and major studios on a new contract covering 10,500 striking film and TV writers broke down December 7, but the union has been pursuing separate talks with smaller, independent production companies.

The WGA’s Hermanson told Reuters that talks between the union and Letterman’s company had produced a “full, binding, independent agreement” that includes provisions for paying writers for work distributed over the Internet.

Compensation for Internet content has been the main sticking point in talks aimed at ending the WGA strike, now in its eighth week.

Several other late-night television hosts, including Jay Leno and Conan O‘Brien of NBC and Jimmy Kimmel of ABC, are planning to resume broadcasts of new episodes on January 2 without their writers.

NBC is controlled by General Electric Co, ABC is a unit of Walt Disney Co and CBS is owned by CBS Corp.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh

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