WGA board approves deal, strike near end

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No one wants to jinx anything by officially declaring that the writers strike has ended, but with each passing hour, it's looking more and more likely that Hollywood writers will be putting down their picket signs and picking up their pencils.

Last week, rumors began circulating around the industry that so much progress had been made in the behind-closed-doors meetings between WGA guild leaders and studio executives that a deal was imminent. On Sunday, the rumors proved true. The WGA negotiating board approved a tentative contract with the studios, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Guild members now have two votes at hand. The 10,500-strong WGA will vote on Tuesday to end the strike, and will then have almost two weeks to approve the tentative agreement. Should everything be approved--which most think is fairly certain--television can get back to business as early as Wednesday.

The guild also gave permission to show runners to return to work as producers today, which means that the process of preparing shows and reassembling crews can get underway.

As expected, the new deal--which would remain in place until 2011--saw both sides meet halfway. One of the biggest arguments between the two sides was over new media and the fact that writers were not being paid for shows streamed online. Under the new deal (the details of which are outlined online), two percent of ad revenue for streaming broadcasts will go to scribes.

However, the greatest point of contention among writers is in the fine print. Studios will be exempt from paying out the two percent of ad revenue to writers for streamed shows for an initial window of 24 days from the first airing of an episode of a show that is in its first season and 17 days from the first airing of a returning program. Because the majority of shows viewed online are usually watched within a week of its broadcast counterpart, some writers think this does little to help their cause.

As for saving the current television season, viewers shouldn't get their hopes up. The overall feeling in the industry is that the studios have an important decision to make about what to do with all of their properties. Returning series are thought to be the safest, but the fate of new shows is cloudy at best. Several shows spared the axe by the strike, such as Cavemen, Bionic Woman, and others, may now be let go. As for midseason shows, such as ABC's Lost, the decision to push out the back end of their seasons is also to be determined.

Given that most shows are dry on completed scripts, production on new episodes would likely not be possible until March, says TVWeek, with comedies getting back to work before dramas. However, several reports on the Web state that some writers were breaking strike rules and penning new scripts during their hiatus.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the strike cost the Southern California economy $2 billion.

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