WGA: Don't bite on 'Osbournes'

Guild tells members not to work on new show, cites 'substandard' pact

WGA leaders warned guild members Wednesday that working on Ozzy Osbourne and clan's new comedy-variety show on Fox could put their membership with the guild on shaky ground.

The WGA has taken issue with the show's producers, FremantleMedia North America, who according to the union offered a "substandard contract" asking that writers be treated as if they were working on "half-scripted" shows, which would greatly reduce their writing fees.

The writing on the show, which has a working title of "The Osbournes: Loud and Dangerous," traditionally would be covered under the guild's basic agreement, used in the past for such shows as "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Laugh-In," according to WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East president Michael Winship. But Fremantle, the WGA said, wanted to treat other portions of the show as "reality content," which would not be covered. Fremantle indicated that it would be responsible for writing that part of the show. The WGA refused.

While some shows produced by Fremantle have been covered by the guild contract, there are others, including "American Idol" and "The Price Is Right," that are not.

During the summer, the WGA went on a bus tour, dubbed the American Idol Truth Tour, which followed the show's auditions all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico, talking with the public about what it claims are substandard working conditions for writers and other behind-the-scenes employees.

Fremantle's David Shall, general counsel and executive vp business operations, accused the WGA of continuing a campaign of "defamation and negative propaganda" against the company. The WGA, Shall said, was contacted in good faith by Fremantle with the hopes of hiring WGA writers for the "nontraditional" Osbournes show, which mixes variety with reality TV.

To retaliate against Fremantle, the WGA is ordering its members to not write for the variety show, and those who do will be in violation of the WGA's working rules and could face a fine. (partialdiff)