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Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some TV shows to return after writers vote to end strike

February 13, 2008

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— A devastating three-month walkout that brought the entertainment industry to a standstill ended Tuesday when Hollywood writers voted to lift their union's strike order and return to work today.

The move allows some TV series to return this spring with a handful of new episodes. It also clears the way for the Academy Awards to be staged on Feb. 24 without the threat of pickets or a boycott by actors that would have dulled the glamour of Hollywood's signature celebration.

"At the end of the day, everybody won. It was a fair deal and one that the companies can live with, and it recognizes the large contribution that writers have made to the industry," Leslie Moonves, chief executive officer of CBS Corp., told The Associated Press.

Moonves was among the media executives who helped broker a deal after negotiations between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios, collapsed in acrimony in December.

Payment of residuals for TV shows and movies distributed online was the most contentious issue in the bitter dispute involving the 12,000-member union and the world's largest media companies and other producers.

Under a tentative contract approved Sunday by the union's board of directors, writers would get a maximum flat fee of about $1,200 for streamed programs in the deal's first two years and then get 2 percent of a distributor's gross in year three - a key union demand.

Other provisions include increased residual payments for downloaded movies and TV programs.

"These advances now give us a foothold in the digital age," said Patric Verrone, president of the guild's West Coast chapter. "Rather than being shut out of the future of content creation and delivery, writers will lead the way as television migrates to the Internet."

Writers who voted in New York and Beverly Hills were overwhelmingly in favor of ending the strike: 3,492 voted yes, with only 283 voting to stay off the job.

Most writers were happy about the outcome and eager to return to work.

"It will be all hands on deck for the writing staff," said Chris Mundy, co-executive producer of CBS' drama "Criminal Minds." He hopes to get a couple of scripts in the pipeline right away, with about seven episodes airing by the end of May.

Not all shows will get back on the air. Networks might not resume production of low-rated programs that have a questionable future.

Writers did not vote on whether to accept the tentative deal, which was reached after a Feb. 1 breakthrough between union negotiators and studio executives. The guild will mail contract ratification ballots to members over the next few days.

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