Writers focus on Web pay issues

Times Staff Writer

Amid heightened labor tensions in Hollywood, union leaders representing film and TV writers have outlined a series of demands they plan to make in upcoming studio contract talks, with compensation for work appearing on the Internet a top priority.

The Writers Guild of America’s east and west unions sent their “pattern of demands” Friday to more than 12,000 writers.

Members will vote on the issues that the guild hopes to put on the bargaining table when contract talks begin July 16. The current three-year contract expires Oct. 31.


As expected, the demands call for formulas that fairly compensate writers for the reuse of their work online, and for new material created for the Internet and other new media.

“As new creative opportunities and income streams emerge in the entertainment industry, we must ensure that writers get their fair share of revenue generated by the content they create,” Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, said in a statement.

Writers also will seek to expand jurisdiction in such areas as reality TV, animation and game shows while pushing to improve residuals -- the fees writers are paid when their work is reused.

The formula for DVD residuals has long been decried by members as antiquated and unfair.

The demands, prepared by a negotiating committee led by writer John F. Bowman, come at a time when major studios and networks already are taking steps to prepare for a possible strike.

Moves include pushing up shooting schedules and ordering additional episodes of TV dramas and reality shows.

Chief studio negotiator J. Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, called the demands an “assault on the entire industry.”


“We are committed to making a deal -- one that is fair to both sides ... one that is realistic, reasonable and respects our contributions and our business needs as well as theirs,” he said.

Producers are expected to push for new residual formulas that kick in only after shows break even.

“We have been paying residuals on losses for far too long,” Counter said. “It is time to reexamine the entire economic landscape.”