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January 18, 2008 12:01 am
Hollywood studios reached a tentative labour agreement on Thursday with the Directors Guild of America, a development that they hope will build momentum to restart talks with striking writers and actors.
The three-year collective bargaining agreement will give DGA members jurisdiction over all but the lowest-budget programming produced for the internet. It will also award them a greater share of revenue from content that is downloaded or streamed online, addressing one of the talent community’s chief complaints.
However, the deal also calls for both sides to adjust the financial terms governing new media depending on how those nascent markets develop. That flexibility was praised by studio executives, who have argued that the new businesses remained too uncertain for them to commit to rigid, long-term agreements.
“It’s less about ground gained than ground established,” one studio executive said of the deal, arguing that the two sides had succeeded at defining key aspects of an emerging media landscape.
Michael Apted, president of the DGA, called the negotiations “difficult” and but said that the guild had succeeded at enshrining key principles. “The internet is not free,” Mr Apted said. “We must receive fair compensation for the use and reuse of our work on the internet, whether it was originally created for other media platforms or expressly for online distribution.”
In a joint statement, the chiefs of Hollywood’s largest film and television studios, expressed hope that the agreement would “signal the beginning of the end of this extremely difficult period for our industry”.
They also invited striking writers at least to resume informal discussions, with the hope that these might set the stage for formal negotiations.
The Writers Guild of America, which has taken a harder line against the studios, did not immediately respond.
The cumulative cost of the strike, which has dragged on for nearly three months, has exceeded $1.4bn, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.
Television studios and networks prepared for the work stoppage by stockpiling scripts and reality programmes, and say that they have so far weathered the storm.
However, the strike wreaked havoc on the Golden Globe Awards, which actors and writers picketed earlier this month, and is now looming over the industry’s showcase event – the Oscars.
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