"New Economic Partnership." That's the phrase being uttered, followed by snickers, on the picket lines by striking writers.
The first news of the recent negotiations between the striking Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) was released yesterday, and it shows very little movement between the two sides. The talks began Monday, and until yesterday, were on a media blackout.
A brief statement from the AMPTP said it proposed what it calls a New Economic Partnership, which "includes groundbreaking moves" in the new media landscape. The deal, which the AMPTP didn't detail in its statement, will allegedly add $130 million in compensation to the writers (the AMPTP says writers receive $1.3 billion each year).
In response, a memo to guild members (published by Variety) from WGA presidents Patric M. Verrone and Michael Winship said, "Thursday morning, the first new proposal [from the AMPTP] was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback."
The two sides have agreed to take a break from negotiations, and will resume talks on Tuesday, December 4. The break is being taken to give the WGA time to further examine the deal. However, the WGA's statement seems to indicate that the AMPTP's proposal isn't at all satisfactory.
The WGA's statement to its guild members gave more insight into the proposed deal:
"For streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a year's reuse of an hour-long program (compared to over $20,000 payable for a network rerun). For theatrical product they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming.
"For made-for-Internet material, they offered minimums that would allow a studio to produce up to a 15-minute episode of network-derived Web content for a script fee of $1,300. They continued to refuse to grant jurisdiction over original content for the Internet.
"In their new proposal, they made absolutely no move on the download formula (which they propose to pay at the DVD rate), and continue to assert that they can deem any reuse 'promotional,' and pay no residual (even if they replay the entire film or TV episode and even if they make money)."
The statement also briefly touched on the WGA's proposal, which is a three percent increase in earnings for writers each year (the statement is also quick to point out that studio revenues are expected to climb 10 percent over the same time). "We are falling behind," said the statement. "As we've stated before, our proposals are more than reasonable and the companies have no excuse for denying it."
If the lengthy statement from the WGA and the terse comment from the AMPTP seem a bit lopsided, it's because they are. Ever since the strike began, the WGA has been openly vocal about its stance, freely discussing its side to the press and online, and the AMPTP has been largely quiet.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the WGA's effective public-relations campaign "knocked the studios off guard" and studio executives "have become increasingly worried that their side has been drowned out by relentless pickets."
The bond among WGA members seems stronger than ever, and they don't appear willing to budge...at all. "The AMPTP's intractability is dispiriting news but it must also be motivating," Verrone and Winship told guild members. "We must fight on, returning to the lines on Monday in force to make it clear that we will not back down, that we will not accept a bad deal, and that we are all in this together."
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.