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Could the Writers Strike Be Coming to an End?

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Could the Writers Strike Be Coming to an End?

Arts & Life

Could the Writers Strike Be Coming to an End?

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Television fans, start your big screens. Striking Hollywood writers are considering a contract proposal. After nearly 15 weeks on the picket line, members of the Writers Guild of America received contract terms from their union members at meetings this weekend in New York and Los Angeles. Salim Akil, who worked on the sitcom "Girlfriends" is one of more than 10,000 members of the Guild. He went to the Los Angeles meeting and he says the strike has been worth it.

Mr. SALEEM AKIL (Writer, "Girlfriends"): I think what people probably want to see when everyone comes out of here is cheering masses. But you're going to win some and you're going to lose some and in any negotiation you're going to compromise. And that's what you're going to see coming out of here. I think happy people who know that there was a compromise, but feel good enough about what happened that they can move on with their lives and not feel bitter.

SEABROOK: The writers strike has put thousands of other entertainment business employees out of work and has stalled production on scripted TV shows. NPR's Kim Masters has been reporting on the strike, and she joins us now. Kim, did the writers get what they wanted?

KIM MASTERS: Not exactly. The writers are very much in a cup-half-full situation. They did make some advances in terms of getting increased payments for their work in certain areas. They got some jurisdiction over work that's created for new media, the Internet. They got some payment for streaming - you know, media streamed over the Internet.

But they did not get certain things that they very much wanted.

SEABROOK: Like?

MASTERS: Well, one of the key sticking points in this was that question of advertiser-supported streaming video. So if you want to see "The Office" and you go to an NBC Web site and you play "The Office," the writers wanted to be paid for that. They wanted a percentage of the money that the studio would get from the advertising. Now, it looks, on the surface, like they got that but in reality, if you really read the fine print, they're getting a fixed payment and it's not a particularly big one.

So I don't even think the writers necessarily know this yet. They have not received the terms of this contract until just hours before these big meetings that were held Las night. And they are only going to have a short time to look at and digest and figure this out. And when they do, you know, I think they'll very much see the cup is half full.

And when it comes to getting paid for those streaming videos, for example, they'll feel that they don't even have a foot in the door, they basically sort of have a little toe in the door. But there's a lot of pent-up desire for these people to go back to work. They've been on strike, many of them have given up thousands and thousands of dollars in opportunities and lost their contracts. And so, you know, I think they're going to accept it.

SEABROOK: Kim, so your guess is the rank-and-file will go for the deal.

MASTERS: Absolutely. I mean, apparently last night at the meeting in Los Angeles, which is the bigger one, there was a lot of cheering and applauding and relief that it's over. And as I said, I don't think they necessarily know what the fine print says but there's a point where you sort of declare victory.

And I think they're looking down the road to a negotiation that might happen next time. They have at least some language in there about getting a percentage of the money from these streaming videos, for example, even if they don't really get a percentage of the money.

So next time they're going to try to make that language into a reality.

SEABROOK: Okay. So the Writer's Guild's story may be over but then the Screen Actor's Guild, their contracts come up in June.

MASTERS: Yes. There's a lot of anxiety in the industry still. The screen actors have made it really clear that they want to sweeten the deal, they're not just going to take what the writer's got. So we're all waiting to see what the screen actors are going to say.

The studios, certainly when it comes to movies, they're planning to try to hurry some stuff into production so they can finish those movies in the event of a screen actors' strike at the end of June. They want to be finished.

SEABROOK: Okay. But, most important question, Kim, when will the TV shows get back on the air? I want my "Office" fix.

MASTERS: I think we're all fixated. And the good news is I think "The Office" is one of those that'll be back quickly. Because the less complicated they are, the more successful they are, the more likely they are to be back fairly quickly. "The Office" would be on that list. The scripted "Hours" might take just a wee bit longer.

SEABROOK: NPR's Kim Masters. Thanks very much.

MASTERS: Thank you.

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