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Saturday, 5 May, 2001, 01:48 GMT 02:48 UK
Hollywood deal lifts strike threat
Hollywood film grip
Productions were rushed through to beat a possible strike
After marathon negotiations, major Hollywood film studios and scriptwriters have reached a deal over contracts, averting a possible strike that could have crippled the industry.

This is one of the most difficult negotiations we have had in many years

Nicholas Counter, producers negotiator
The new contract with film studios and television networks will give the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) a $41m increase over three years.

WGA members still have to approve the deal, but writers' negotiators said they would recommend that all members vote in favour of it.

A strike by the writers would have paralysed the television and motion picture industry and cost Los Angeles hundreds of millions of dollars.

Producers can now focus their attention on their next major labour issue - Hollywood actors, whose contract expires on 1 July.

"This is one of the most difficult negotiations we have had in many years," Nicholas Counter for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) told a Los Angeles news conference.

Writers' negotiator Mike Mahern said it was the best economic package the WGA had negotiated for its members since 1977.

More rights

Writers had threatened to strike over their demands for extra payments for films shown on the internet and on video, and over control of creative rights.

Michael Mahern
The WGA recommends that all members vote in favour of the deal

The main sticking points had been an increase in the amount of residuals - payments made for movies and TV shows when they enter secondary markets, like home video or cable TV reruns.

Writers were also pushing for greater creative control over the end-product and more respect in the production process.

They will now have the right to meet and talk with a director before a film or TV show is produced.

The deal also ranks Fox TV as a fully-fledged network like ABC, CBS and NBC, which means it will pay more money to writers when reruns air on Fox.

But the two sides failed to agree on emerging markets, such as downloading movies over the internet, so talks on these new areas will continue.

Actors' talks

The deal comes after the deadline for meeting a resolution passed on 1 May. Since then, a news blackout has made it difficult to gauge the progress of the negotiations.

The guild allowed writers to carry on working while talks continued.

Although fears of a walkout rattled the entertainment industry for months, the guild never called for a strike authorisation vote from members.

The outcome of the writers' talks is expected to set the tone for the upcoming negotiations of the 130,000-member Screen Actors Guild. The talks on a new deal for actors are set to begin on 10 May.

Back-to-back walkouts by both writers and actors could have cost the local economy nearly $6.9bn in lost revenue.

Some 185,000 people - around 5% of the workforce - earn their livelihoods directly from Los Angeles' entertainment industry.

The BBC's Steve Futterman
"It was the announcement Hollywood wished it would hear"
ABC's entertainment reporter Jovana Lara
"The settlement.. may defuse the possibility of the actors strike later this summer"
ABC's Carla Wohl
"The deal... was the result of hundreds of hours of tense negotiations"
See also:

04 May 01 | Film
No end to strike talks
02 May 01 | Film
Scriptwriters seek 'respect'
30 Apr 01 | Film
Reality TV in the wings
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