Strike negotiations crumble

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The two sides at odds in the writers strike saw the rift between them grow deeper and wider on Wednesday, as negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) dissolved with no ground gained.

The two sides returned to the bargaining table on Tuesday, but did not even come close to settling on a deal that could resolve the strike, which is mainly over residuals from new media (i.e., online sales and streaming of television programs and films). Instead, the two sides may have grown even further apart, as evidenced by each organization's statements issued Friday night after talks broke down.

In a statement directed to the WGA, e-mailed to members of the press, and posted on its Web site (PDF format), the AMPTP reversed its usual quiet summation of events and unveiled a lengthier recount of the WGA's proposals, ripping them apart and calling them "completely unacceptable in their present form, or in any altered form."

The AMPTP had previously been the quieter of the two sides, but launched a fairly scathing retort that uses the phrases "completely unacceptable," "absolute roadblock," and "widened the gap between us."

"Your determination to continue to pursue these initiatives prevents us from making any movement in any other area," the AMPTP statement says. "Therefore, unless you advise us immediately that these proposals are withdrawn, we see no purpose in continuing these talks."

The WGA's retaliation may not have used the same harsh language, but the blame game was just as evident. The WGA was particularly upset at an ultimatum the AMPTP gave it (the same letter posted on the AMPTP Web site), which the WGA sees as the ultimate reason for the breakdown of talks.

"We reject the idea of an ultimatum," said WGA Negotiating Committee chairman John F. Bowman. "Although a number of items we have on the table are negotiable, we cannot be forced to bargain with ourselves. The AMPTP has many proposals on the table that are unacceptable to writers, but we have never delivered ultimatums."

The WGA is also taking exception to the way the AMPTP handled the negotiations. The group claims that the AMPTP ultimatum was presented to the WGA "within minutes" of the negotiations ending, implying that the AMPTP was going to break off negotiations all along and had the release written well ahead of time.

"We remain ready and willing to negotiate, no matter how intransigent our bargaining partners are because the stakes are simply too high," said Bowman. "We were prepared to counter their proposal tonight, and when any of them are ready to return to the table, we're here, ready to make a fair deal."

LA Weekly's Nikki Finke has a recap of the events on Friday sewn together from various sources, and it's become a "he said, she said" argument, with representatives from both sides seeing the evening differently.

The lengthy post is summed up in one simple sentence that does not bode well for a quick resolution: "In short, things are back to being a big mess."

For more on the writers strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.

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