Approval expected for WGA contract

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Hollywood should get closure Tuesday.

The WGA's two-week vote on whether to ratify its new three-year contract culminated Monday with membership meetings on both coasts. The pact is expected to pass muster comfortably with the 10,500 affected members of the WGA West and WGA East, but industryites won't rest completely easy until the results are announced.

Depending on their writing category, scribes would see annual boosts in basic pay of 3%-3.5% under the agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. After terms of a tentative pact were announced, the writers voted by a 92.5% margin to end their 100-day strike. (Full story)

Separately on Monday, the WGA touted the introduction of a bill in the California state senate that the guild claims would "end the practice of selling television series and films for less than fair market value."

The WGA tried unsuccessfully to secure language in its new contract that would trigger mandatory residuals arbitration whenever films or TV shows are distributed in ancillary windows via companies sharing ownership with the original production entity. The guild has argued that such vertically integrated arrangements are inherently vulnerable to conflicts of interest and too often lead to undervaluing content and underpaying on writer residuals.

"As a SAG member, I care deeply that creative talent is treated fairly and that all workers in the entertainment industry receive the compensation they deserve," said former TV actress and state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles). "Many of my constituents work within the entertainment industry, and I have recently heard more and more about the growing practice of selling entertainment content (for) less than their fair market value."

Kuehl said that undervaluing such content also can hurt below-the-line workers who tap into distribution revenue streams to fund union health and pension plans.

Disputes over content sales within vertically integrated conglomerates have prompted a spate of lawsuits in recent years, with all eventually settled by the parties' mutual agreement. Flaps over TV series have included "The X-Files," "Home Improvement" and most recently "Will & Grace."
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