After more than three months, the Writer’s Guild (WGA) strike might be over. Really. Like, by tomorrow sometime. A tentative deal between the media conglomerates (the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, otherwise known as the AMPTP) and the WGA have forged a tentative agreement, committed to legalese on paper very late last night.
The eleventh-hour work hammering out the details of the agreement was in advance of bi-coastal meetings, during which the WGA negotiating committee will explain the terms of the proposal to the full membership and the union leadership will get a sense of member reaction to it. Guild leadership will meet on Sunday, to determine whether there is enough satisfaction with the proposed agreement to lift the three-month-old work-stoppage. The agreement would then be voted upon by the full membership of the guild within the next two weeks, formally accepting the agreement.
The details of the agreement are posted on United Hollywood, the unofficial blog of the WGA strike captains. In their letter to the WGA membership, guild presidents Patric Verrone (WGA-West) and Michael Winship (WGA-East) said that the agreement looks to the future, “in which the Internet becomes the primary means of both content creation and delivery.”
Acknowledging the toll taken upon not only WGA members, but “countless others,” Winship and Verrone emphasized that while the agreement may not be perfect, it will “bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks." It is time, they continue “to accept this contract and settle the strike.”
During the three-month strike, the writers have been bolstered and encouraged by fan support, primarily via the powerful medium in which the WGA hoped to gain in its new contract — the Internet. A crucial issue for the writers has been compensation for Internet distribution of film and television products. During the past year, series television and, to a slightly lesser extent, movies have found a new and convnenient form of delivery via Internet download and streaming. Writers will now be compensated when the networks profit from downloaded videos via providers like iTunes and Amazon Unbox — or when they are streamed directly from network and other websites.
So what happens next? The two guilds meet today (Saturday) in New York (this afternoon) and Los Angeles (this evening). Members will voice their opinions on the deal during what are sure to be fairly intense and contentious meetings. If (and it’s still a pretty big “if”) the membership expresses agreement (no formal voting, just a general sense) with the proposal, the WGA board at its Sunday meeting can call a halt to the strike, sending writers and everyone else back to work as early as Monday. Writers will dust off their dusty word processors.
The immediate impact will likely be seen with shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the late-night talk shows like Jay Leno. (Dave Letterman has had his writers back since early January, after signing an independent agreement with the WGA).
Series television will gear up, and many shows that had run out of new episodes will return to the set and continue filming. Several reports have indicated that popular series like House will begin to air new episodes beginning sometime in April, giving viewers anywhere from four to six (maybe seven?) new episodes. Movies that had been suspended mid-filming would return to the set as well.