The Writers Guild of America has accused the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers of reneging on new media deals negotiated to end a 100-day strike that crippled the industry earlier this year.
In a statement, the WGA-West claimed that the AMPTP “failed to comply with the contract negotiated at the end of the guild’s 100-day strike and are not paying residuals for writers’ work that is reused on new media.” These residuals are from WGA-written programmes that have been sold online, a process known as Electronic Sell-Through. For its part, the AMPTP is now claiming that the residuals only apply from February 2008, as opposed to films after 1971 and television shows after 1977. “The understanding we reached with the WGA was exactly the same as the one we reached with the [Directors Guild of America]. The DGA deal calls for the new EST formula to apply only to motion pictures that are initially released in new media after the effective date of the new agreement.”
The WGA had raised this issue several weeks ago, although it was not widely reported in the press. This announcement comes just as the Screen Actors Guild and the AMPTP are scheduled today to meet for the first time in five months. The WGA has since filed for arbitration under US labour laws.
The WGA strikes lasted for several months and brought television production to a standstill in America. Several film releases have been postponed since then, likely due to the fact that script amendments were impossible for films produced by struck companies, such as those that are represented by the AMPTP. The SAG is currently undergoing Federal mediation in its contract negotiations with the producers’ collective, while fears are still present that the SAG could seek a strike authorisation vote from its members. Such a strike would seriously harm the film industry, particularly given recent economic developments, but is rapidly becoming the only option that the union may have in its negotiations.