Striking writers, studios eye informal talks


MUMBAI: The Writers Guild of America (WGA) will hold informal talks with studio CEOs this week in an effort to resume formal negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the studios’ bargaining arm.
News of the development circulated Friday, a day after the Directors Guild of America (DGA) sealed a new labor pact with a minimum of fuss. The WGA, which is now in Week 12 of its first strike in two decades, hasn’t held a negotiating session with the AMPTP since 7 December.
At least two top media chiefs – News Corp. president Peter Chernin and CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves – engaged in back-channel communications with guild officials during the weekend. A management source said it could take until midweek for the parties to advance those chats to more elaborate, if informal, discussions. But a top guild source said that select CEOs had agreed to discuss some ground rules for such talks Tuesday.
The significance of further informal talks directly with top studios executives is twofold. First, it will allow both sides to sort through peripheral issues so the parties then can take into any resumed formal talks only those issues key to a settlement. Second, the informal talks with studio chiefs will put guild negotiators in direct contact with those on the management side who can actually approve the most important components of a settlement.
WGA brass will be huddling during the next few days to discuss further strategy in the talks. “We (will) be scheduling a membership meeting to inform you and hear your questions and concerns as more information becomes available,” WGA East president Michael Winship told members in a weekend e-mail. “This is a critical juncture in our struggle. As this process unfolds, we ask for your patience. No matter what you think of the DGA’s tentative agreement, what is most important is that the guilds East and West continue to work together in order to achieve our goal – a fair and just agreement for writers.”
WGA West president Patric Verrone indicated similar resolve in his weekend remarks, while DGA officials recapped the happy conclusion for members after the directors’ own short and sweet negotiations.
Standard & Poor analyst Tuna Amobi said the DGA pact could be a ‘catalyst’ for the resumption of WGA talks. “The deal breaks new ground on key areas of jurisdiction and Internet distribution compensation,” S&P said in a summary of Amobi’s note to investors.