Hollywood writers close to agreeing deal before Oscars

The three-month old Hollywood writers' strike, which has pulled major US drama serials off the air and turned network television into a swamp of reality programming, may be on the verge of a solution.

Draft contracts were being passed between studio bosses and union lawyers over the weekend, said insiders, raising hopes of a deal within days and lifting the threat of disruption to the Oscars on 24 February.

Talks involving several of Hollywood's most powerful executives made a significant breakthrough last Friday, it was claimed, sketching the outlines of an agreement on how much writers will be paid for internet broadcasting of their work.

Although previous outbreaks of optimism have proved misguided, talks were given a new impetus when directors concluded similar contract negotiations in record time last month. Minds have also been concentrated by the looming Oscars ceremony, which writers and actors had threaten to shut down in the same way they boycotted the Golden Globes at the start of January.

The leadership of the Writers Guild of America has been under pressure both from its own members – including the likes of Tom Hanks and George Clooney who have offered to mediate to end the strike – and from Hollywood's army of lighting technicians, set-builders, caterers, make-up artists and the rest, all of whom have suffered from the dramatic fall-off in production since the writers walked out on 5 November. Stars from the Screen Actors Guild have stayed out in sympathy.

Bob Iger, the head of Disney, and Peter Chernin, Rupert Murdoch's right hand man at NewsCorp, which owns 20th Century Fox, were among the powerbrokers involved in negotiations on Friday and continuing into the weekend.

The main area of contention between the two sides has been royalties on programmes shown free on the internet, a way of broadcasting that is growing in importance and could be a big revenue source for the studios in the future. The studios say it is too early to know how the medium will develop and want to cap the sums handed over to writers; the guild says they should get a percentage. The outlines of a compromise were not clear last night, and all sides said they would observe the news blackout imposed on the talks.

That will come as a relief to American television viewers, now that all but a handful of major shows have exhausted their backlog of finished episodes. Networks have fallen back on repeats and reality TV programmes, even resurrecting American Gladiators to fill prime time slots. The dearth of new material meant that the belated return of Lost last week was a major television event, with ABC promising to screen the eight completed episodes even though the second half of the season – and the resolution of dozens of plotlines – has yet to be filmed.

The strike is likely to be called off as soon as the guild's board approves a deal, possibly this Friday, although the contract will have to be ratified by its 10,500 members.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones