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Producers: WGA's New-Media Claims Misleading

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LOS ANGELES The Writers Guild of America's claims that the studios have failed to pay up on new media residuals to its members was misleading and designed to harm the talks with the Screen Actors Guild and a federal mediator, according to the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers.

In an afternoon "fact sheet" e-mailed by the AMPTP, the group fired back at the WGA, which filed an arbitration claim on Nov. 19 claiming not one penny has been paid for new media residuals agreed upon in February in the scribes' new contract.

The arbitration filing came the day before SAG and the AMPTP were set to sit down with a federal mediator after months of a stalemate over the actors union's TV/theatrical contract.

"Instead of working cooperatively with the companies to resolve any outstanding issues, the WGA went public on the eve of the crucial SAG-AMPTP federal mediation," the AMPTP stated. "This move was blatantly designed to disrupt that mediation and help justify SAG's eventual decision to reject the AMPTP's offer and end the mediation." (Related: "SAG Rallies Troops Ahead of Strike Vote.")

The WGA, the AMPTP adds, made its complaint without first trying to resolve the matter with the companies the AMPTP reps.

The WGA said there is no connection between its arbitration filing and the meeting the AMPTP had with SAG and the federal mediator and pointed out that "the AMPTP apparently had no qualms about announcing its 'deal' with the IATSE on the day prior to the mediation with SAG, obviously timed to impact on those discussions."

The guild added, "The WGA, like everybody else in this industry, is extremely anxious about those negotiations and hopeful that the AMPTP will reach a fair and reasonable agreement with SAG quickly."

The WGA claims missing payments include streaming media and reuse of work for programs sold as electronic downloads, also known as Electronic Sell-Through, which involves the sale of video content online that allows the purchaser to keep a copy of the program permanently.

The agreement the WGA struck with the AMPTP following the 100-day strike covers feature films produced after July 1, 1971 and TV programs produced after 1977.

"The companies have reneged on this agreement and are taking the position that only programs produced after Feb. 13, 2008 are covered by the new provision," said John F. Bowman, a WGA West board member and 2007 negotiating team member.

In its detailed fact sheet, the AMPTP said some studios have made or are set to make payments for streaming video to the WGA, but some studios are still working on their residual systems program to include the new formula. In the meantime, some payments are being processed manually.

Residuals for electronic sell-through prior to Feb. 13, 2008 have been included in the DVD payment structure.

"In short, the AMPTP and the studios are dealing with the issue of new media residuals substantively, while the WGA is more concerned about playing politics with the issue than with ensuring that working writers receive payment," the AMPTP stated.

Additionally, other guild and union contracts containing the same residual platform for Electronic Sell-Through have not questioned the terms of the agreement.