Business as usual at negotiations


Negotiators got through Day 5 of contract talks between Hollywood writers and their studio employers without any sharp objects being thrown.

And if sharp talk featured prominently, it still appears fair to say that the Thursday session was much more businesslike than previous sessions.

Since July 16, the WGA has been engaged in contentious talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers over the guild's primary film and TV contract. Scheduling conflicts and other issues prevented a greater number of actual work sessions from being held, even though the parties' current pact will expire Oct. 31.

On Thursday, the labor and management negotiating teams first caucused separately at AMPTP headquarters in Encino before engaging in a bargaining session from late morning onward. The negotiators broke off at about 4:30 p.m. and agreed to reconvene at 10 a.m. today for another session at the same site.

Contrary to the critical statements issued by one or both parties after previous sessions, neither labor nor management negotiators had much to say about the latest session other than to acknowledge that it had been held and concluded. However, it's believed that some of the stickiest of negotiating topics figured prominently in the latest exchanges around the bargaining table.

Among the most central issues is the question of Internet compensation for the union writers.

The WGA wants expanded residuals for all new-media content. Management would prefer the subject be studied for the time being and has advanced an alternate proposal that even current film and TV residuals be reworked in the next contract.

The AMPTP wants to recoup certain basic costs on film and TV projects before paying any residuals in the future, a proposal rejected by the WGA early in the talks.