WGA Strike Ending Would Open Up Disney Channel TV Production

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Saturday February 9, 2008

The strike that shut down Hollywood could be in its final hours.

A tentative, tightly held agreement between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the major studios will be presented today to thousands of striking writers in New York and Los Angeles in an effort to end the 14-week-old work stoppage.

If writers generally consent to the proposed three-year contract, the WGA’s East and West Coast boards would probably approve the contract tomorrow, lifting the strike order and paving the way for formal ratification by the membership. That would send writers back to work Monday to resume production on Disney Channel TV shows that have mostly been in reruns since the strike began Nov. 5.

The key issue in the strike has been the payment rate for movies and TV shows streamed over the Internet. The writers went on strike largely to ensure such online compensation. They fear being left empty-handed as more TV programs are viewed via the Internet, cellphones, PDAs and other digital devices.

Some studio allies have jumped the gun, prematurely declaring an end to the strike. Appearing on CNBC on Thursday, former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner said: “It’s over. They made the deal, they shook hands on the deal. It’s going on Saturday to the writers in general.” Eisner later backtracked during the interview, saying: “Oh, I was giving you a rumor. I hear it’s over. I’m going to be in bad shape if it’s not.”

Disney, whose ABC network broadcasts the Oscars, isn’t the only party with an urgent need to get this year’s show back on track, one Hollywood agent said. Only one nominated movie in the major categories, “Juno,” has grossed more than $55 million at the box office; other films could especially benefit from Oscar telecast publicity.

“This is all about the Academy Awards, getting the awards back on board,” the agent said of this week’s push for a settlement.

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