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Writers Review Tentative Deal with Studios

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Leaders of the Writers' Guild of America have sent an email to their membership, saying that they have, quote, "a tentative deal" with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that would end their three month strike. Writers' Guild members in New York meet this afternoon to discuss the language in the tentative agreement. Los Angeles guild members meet later this evening. We're joined on the line now by Nikki Finke from deadlinehollywooddaily.com.

Nikki, thanks for being with us - the hardest working journalist in show business.

Ms. NIKKI FINKE (www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com): Also the sickest. I have the flu.

SIMON: Well, okay, thanks very much for making the time for us. Is - do you see a chance that this deal could be rejected by the membership?

Ms. FINKE: Yes.

SIMON: And on what basis?

Ms. FINKE: Part of it is content and part of it is procedural. Let's first look at procedural. The meetings today mean the membership have less than 12 hours, and in the case of New York, just a couple of hours, to review this contract language - when they woke up this morning. They feel, and I'm getting many, many hundreds of emails to this affect, that this schedule, which has been dictated by the Hollywood CEOs, is basically at lightening speed. And they feel like this deal was being rammed down their throats. This is obviously a very difficult and delicate time. The content of the deal has surprised some of the writers. It is not much different from the deal that the directors achieved about a month ago. And therefore you have a situation with lowered and raised expectations.

Now under normal circumstances, the Writers' Guild leadership should've had days to kind of help prepare the membership for this and lowered their expectations and say, look, this is the best deal that we thought we could get at this point, and we're recommending it. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. And the reason why is because the moguls, at the last minute, for the last five days, have been haggling, haggling, haggling in drawing up this language. And this has therefore created what can only be described as a mess.

SIMON: Well, what is - if you could tell us quickly - what is the proposed language for things like digital downloads for Podcasts, and all of those important questions?

Ms. FINKE: There is still the 17 day streaming window. Which basically means, that for the first 17 days that an episode of a television series is put on the Web, the networks get that for free. They can get all the ad revenue from this, for the 17 days, and there's a lot of talk that the networks actually get - actually did a survey that said that it's the first 17 days when all the money is made.

You will find, now, that for the first time, the writers will be getting new media revenue. The problem is, it's very small revenue and is it going to be enough.

SIMON: On your blog, you noted that the terms were not finished. What was the air of negotiations like this week - the kind of amity that points to a deal?

Ms. FINKE: Actually, it was extremely strained. The problem with that - at the last minute in drawing up the language, the moguls and their lawyers were trying to get every last advantage. Know - were saying, okay, we agreed to this, and then the writers would say, no, we hadn't agreed to that - we agreed to this. So, it was literally at the point where people were calling up News Corp. number two, Peter Chernin, even in the middle of the night, and saying, look, your guys are not playing fair. They're playing fast and loose with the facts. So...

SIMON: Nikki…

Ms. FINKE: …the entire negotiations have been difficult.

SIMON: Nikki Finke in Hollywood. Thanks very much for speaking with us. Talk to you later. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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