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Strike Watch

Dan Abrams Defends Huffington Post From the “Strikers”

Huffington Post had an unlikely ally today — Dan Abrams, founder of digital media company Abrams Media, wrote a post on Mediaite defending Huffington Post from the hoardes of unpaid bloggers who are supposedly poised to go on strike against the giant aggregator.

Last week, the Newspaper Guild and its 26,000-member union called for all unpaid Huffington Post bloggers to withhold their work in support of a “strike” launched earlier this year by the art publication Visual Arts Source, whose writers had previously contributed free content to the Post.

Abrams’ problem with this move is the timing:

But why the public cry for a strike now? What happened last week? [...] Maybe, in the words of the Newspaper Guild, because the outcry comes “in the wake of its $315 million merger with AOL.” Ah. So it’s the fact that Huffington Post now has a distinct and clear numerical value?

Abrams doesn’t give let aggregation go entirely free of charge — he writes that “it’s also true that aggregation has had a disastrous effect on newspapers and I believe journalism as a whole.” But unlike the New York TimesBill Keller (who really, really hates aggregation, and holds Huffington Post mostly responsible for its pervasiveness), Abrams says that “with or without Huffington Post, newspapers would be suffering the precise fate they are today.”

The problem is not Huffington Post in particular, says Abrams, but the broader problem of the Internet. So, he advises us all, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

It seems like new media is sticking up for its own.

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WGA Ratifies New MBA Contract Overwhelmingly

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While, yes, for all intents and purposes the WGA strike was over, there was the final formality of the ratifying voteby the guilds. The strike beards have all been shaved. Yesterday, however, the Writers Guilds of America, East and West ended the strike officially by ratifying the new contract with 93.6% of the vote(4,060 votes cast; 3,802 to 258). From the press release:

”’The 2008 Minimum Basic Agreement is groundbreaking on many levels,’ said Michael Winship, president of the WGAE. ‘Not only does it establish Writers Guild jurisdiction in new media, it gives writers the same separated rights provisions in new media enjoyed by the creators of original TV and motion picture scripts, as well as residuals for the reuse of movies and television programs on the Internet and in new media. Those residuals will be based on ‘distributor’s gross’ — real money for our members — that we’ll be able to audit and monitor more effectively than ever before.”

(image via post-gazette)

Was The Writers Strike Letterman’s Last Chance To Eclipse Leno?

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The WGA strike barely affected the ratings of late night talk shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. That’s not good news for David Letterman, who had the advantage of writers, in his late night competition against his nemesis, Jay Leno. According to the AP’s David Bauder:

”The most intriguing late-night duel — David Letterman returning with his writers, and Jay Leno without — didn’t change the status quo much, either.

”’The audience made the decision of which of the two hosts they wanted to watch,’ said Rick Ludwin, chief of late-night programming at NBC. ‘They made the decision 13 years ago.’

”Leno’s ‘Tonight’ show has averaged 5.17 million viewers since his return, up from the pre-strike average of 5 million. Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ on CBS increased from 3.8 million pre-strike to 4.05 million after he went back on the air after the new year. In general, viewership tends to go up for these shows during winter.

”For Letterman, it undoubtedly represented his last, best chance to eclipse Leno, who relinquishes the ‘Tonight’ show chair to Conan O’Brien next year.”

David Letterman’s production company World Wide Pants reached a deal with the WGA two months into the strike that ultimately lasted more than three months.

(image via amazon)

Tina Fey To Host Post WGA Strike SNL

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Former SNL head writer and current star of 30 Rock Tina Fey will be the first post WGA strike episode of Saturday Night Live. Saturday Night Live cast members and writers were particularly active during the strike. Seth Meyers, the current head writers, has the WGA Picket ”Perfect Attendance Record.” Cast member Amy Poehler was also a frequent picketer on behalf of the WGA.

(image via 30rockonline via time)

Strike Watch: The Strike Is Over

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Yesterday, WGA members voted by a 92.5% margin to lift the November 5th restraining order, effectively ending the strike. ”Writing,” write WGA East and West Presidents Michael Winship and Patric M. Verrone in a joint email, ”can resume immediately.” Further:

”The decision to begin this strike was not taken lightly and was only made after no other reasonable alternative was possible. We are profoundly aware of the economic loss these fourteen weeks have created not only for our members but so many other colleagues who work in the television and motion picture industries. Nonetheless, with the establishment of the WGA jurisdiction over new media and residual formulas based on distributor’s gross revenue (among other gains) we are confident that the results are a significant achievement not only for ourselves but the entire creative community, now and in the future.”

(image via post-gazette)

Full email after the jump …

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WGA: Wednesday Viacom Picket Has Been Suspended

Wednesday’s scheduled WGA East picket at the Viacom building has been suspended. Says WGA East Spokesperson Sherry Goldman via email to FishbowlNY: ”Since we now have a tentative agreement, all picketing has been suspended. Membership is voting tomorrow whether they want the Council and Board to lift the restraining order (the strike) so they can return to work while the contract ratification process takes place. We’ll know the results of that vote very, very late Tuesday night.”

The Last WGA Picket?

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Last Friday’s 300-plus person Time Warner picket may have been the last of the WGA strike. According to the WGA strike recap email:

”…all of the writers of The Late Show With David Letterman participated in today’s picket to show their continued solidarity with their fellow writers still on strike. They also continued their tradition of donating lunch to the picketers.”

Among the boldfacers picketing: WGA picket perfect attendance award winner and SNL head writer Seth Meyers, David Chase, Tom Fontana, Michael Moore, Warren Leight, Griffin Dunne, Terry George and Tina Fey (among others).

Seth Meyers Shaves His Strike Beard!

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At the Writers Guild Awards on Saturday, WGA Picket Perfect Attendance Award winner and SNL head writer Seth Meyers was sighted clean-shaven. What about the strike beard? From The Envelope Blog of The Los Angeles Times:

”What prompted the dramatic gesture, which was on full display at the WGA awards in Manhattan that evening?

”’Confidence,’ Meyers said. ‘Confidence that this might soon be over.”’

The Writers Guild Awards for outstanding achievement in writing for screen, television, documentary, radio, promotion, and videogames during 2007 celebrated their 60th Anniversary on Saturday night.

”One difference from last year’s ceremony, noted Meyers: ‘We have an open bar. All the drinks are free and, we apologize for this, you will have to watch a 30-second ad.”’

Also attending the ceremony Saturday night at the Hudson Theater in Manhattan were 30 Rock creator Tina Fey (Who won a WGA Award in the Comedy Series category), Colbert Report writer Tom Purcell (who won a WGA Award in the Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) Series category), WGA East President Michael Winship, SNL’s Rachel Dratch, and 88-year old WGA East Evelyn F. Burkey Award winner Walter Bernstein.

(image via nbc)

WGAE Council and WGAW Board Approve Contract

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Over the weekend, after 14 weeks of striking, the WGAE Council and WGAW Board unanimously voted to recommend approval of the contract, sending it to their membership for a ratification vote. Showrunners were given the green light to return to producing duties this morning. Film and television screenwriters could return to work as early as this Wednesday. From Nikki Finke’s Deadlinehollywooddaily:

”At the WGA’s news conference today, union leaders declared the new contract is ‘a huge victory for us.’ Trumpeted WGAW President Patric Verrone, ‘This is the first time we actually got a better deal in a new media than previously.’ Verrone credited News Corp. No. 2 Peter Chernin and Disney chief Bob Iger, and also CBS boss Les Moonves, with ‘being instrumental in making this deal happen’ after the WGA spent 3 months ‘getting nowhere’ with the AMPTP negotiators and lawyers.”

So what does that mean for your favorite shows? USA Today’s Gary Levin writes, ”Most prime-time series will need six to eight weeks to write, produce and edit new episodes, but a handful of series (The Office, Two and a Half Men, Desperate Housewives) have one or two scripts nearly ready, which could shorten that time frame.”

(image via people.cornell.com)

Strike Watch: Picket Scheduled For Noon At Time Warner

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Until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, the strike is still technically on. And today the WGA East has scheduled a large scale rally at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle from noon to 2 pm.

A special WGA East membership meeting has been called for tomorrow, Saturday, at 2 pm ET in the Broadway Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Times Square, 1606 Broadway (Broadway and 49th Street). According to Deadlinehollywooddaily:

”The WGA governing bodies intend to ‘take the temperature’ and ‘get a sense of the room’ at this time. There’ll be lots of open mike time ‘where people can say whatever they want,’ I’m told. Everyone anticipates these will be very long and very contentious meetings on both coasts.

”On Sunday (not Monday, as some thought), the WGAW Board and the WGAE Council both meet and will have to vote to approve any tentative deal before it goes to a membership vote. So, the WGA’s Negotiating Committee, WGAW Board and WGAE Council all must approve the contract before any decision on a strike can be made.”

(image via REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

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