Disney takes issue with writers' payout claims

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It was Disney's day in the picketing spotlight, but the studio suggested that much of the hubbub was pretty Mickey Mouse.

Each day the WGA East has been choosing a site tied to one of the top media conglomerates for its writers-strike activities. A day of leafleting at the World of Disney retail site Wednesday in Manhattan prompted a corporate rebuttal to some guild claims.

Screenwriters and TV scribes at the WGAE and WGA West have been on strike since Nov. 5, with their negotiating impasse centered largely on demands for expanded compensation for content reused over the Internet and other new-media platforms. The writers are paid for permanent downloads but have been uncompensated in other areas, such as ad-supported content streamed for free.

WGAE leaflets distributed at the Disney site stated that the company has projected $1.5 billion in digital revenue and suggest that the writers' share of that is zero. Disney immediately rejected those claims.

"The WGA leadership is deliberately distorting the facts," the company said in a statement attributed to Disney's ABC Studios. "As the WGA knows full well, more than half of Disney's digital revenues are from sales of travel packages and the vast majority of the rest is from online advertising on sites like Disney.com and ESPN.com and through online merchandise sales.

"The WGA also knows its members have been paid residuals on entertainment content downloaded via iTunes," the company said. "Deliberately misleading the public is not the best way to resolve this issue and get Hollywood back to work."

The guild, which also continued picketing activities around Los Angeles on Wednesday, said its negotiating demands have been reasonable.

"We're only asking for our share," the WGAE said in its leaflets. "In fact, we're barely asking for anything: 2.5% of whatever money the studios make off our work on the Internet or digitally -- the delivery system of the future. But the studios are refusing to discuss a fair deal, so we've been forward to take our case to you."

A highlight of the WGA West's picketing activities Wednesday included an afternoon concert at the NBC picket line in Burbank by singer-songwriter KT Tunstall.

The WGAE later issued a public statement on the day's comments from Disney: "We would better know the nature of Disney's and ABC's revenues from digital if they would more fully and transparently reveal them to us. For example, their statement does not mention that much of the online advertising on their websites accompanies streaming video of our members' work in television and film for which they receive absolutely nothing. All we're asking for is a fair, respectful, small share."
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