WGA FILES CHARGES AGAINST STUDIOS

The Writers Guild of America on Thursday filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the networks and studios violated federal law when they broke off negotiations last weekend. In a statement, the WGA demanded that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers return to the bargaining table to hammer out a settlement. The AMPTP has indicated that it will not return to the table until the WGA drops its demands for jurisdiction over writers on reality and animated shows. However, in its complaint the WGA claimed that by law "an employer may not require a union to resolve specific proposals as a pre-condition to discussing other subjects." The AMPTP called the writers' NLRB filing "baseless, desperate" and an "indication that the WGA's negotiating strategy has achieved nothing for working writers." Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America said it would hold off arranging negotiating sessions with the AMPTP until after the first of the year "to give the WGA and the AMPTP more time to return to the negotiating table to conclude an agreement." However, it added, with "no end to the standoff in sight" it plans to "commence formal talks in the hope that a fresh perspective" may bring about a larger settlement.

MURDOCH: WGA WANTS "SOCIALIST SYSTEM"

In an interview on Fox News Channel's Your World With Neil Cavuto Thursday, News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch accused the writers of attempting to impose "some sort of Socialist system and drag down the companies." Murdoch predicted that the strike "is not going to last as long as everybody says," but quickly retreated on that forecast by adding, "But, if it does, it does." Later, he added, "I would be hopeful we will have everybody back at work fairly soon, but maybe maybe a few months."

LATE-NIGHT HOSTS PLANNING TO RETURN -- TOGETHER

Executives behind the late-night TV shows have been meeting together in order to find a way to put the shows back on the air again without writers before the strike is settled, the New York Post reported today (Friday), citing knowledgeable industry sources. The plan, the newspaper said, is for all of the late-night hosts to return to the air on the same night. "The fact is they're talking, but no one wants to be first or the only one, for that matter," one network executive told the Post. "But I think their power will come in their solidarity. It's a hot potato." Today's Daily Variety also reported that the late-night talk-show hosts are likely to return to work early next month

COMCAST SUES NFL

Comcast, the nation's largest cable-TV operator, has sued the National Football League in an effort to stop the league from urging Comcast customers to drop their cable subscriptions because access to the NFL Network is not provided free. The suit charges that the NFL is engaged in a "multimillion dollar marketing campaign" aimed at coercing Comcast into abandoning the right to include the NFL on a sports tier at additional charge. Comcast had previously indicated that the NFL demands 70 cents per month from each of its subscribers if its channel runs on basic cable -- an amount that Comcast would have to pass on to its customers, whether or not they are football fans. The dispute comes at a time when the New England Patriots are aiming to preserve a perfect record. They have two more games left before playing the New York Giants in their final game of the regular season -- a game that is scheduled to be carried exclusively by the NFL Network. Meanwhile, on Thursday Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable -- which does not carry the NFL Network at all -- urged the football league to make a deal with a major broadcast network for the Dec. 29 game "which would allow all viewers to see it either directly over the air or through their multichannel providers." However, an NFL spokesman told Broadcasting & Cable magazine Thursday that putting the game on a broadcast network is "not an option" and that "everyone understands it is not an option."

FCC CHAIRMAN STANDS FIRM ON OWNERSHIP RULES

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is resisting Congressional pressure to delay a vote next week on media ownership rules. The commission is scheduled to vote on Martin's proposal to eliminate in the top 20 markets the rule that bars a media company from owning a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same city. At one point during Congressional testimony Thursday Martin expressed concern about the current financial state of newspapers and suggested that the new rules would help them. Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi shot back, "The FCC is worried about the financial condition of newspapers? What?"

THE NEWS YOU DIDN'T SEE

Noting that the network nightly newscasts do not assign correspondents to all scheduled news events, the Tyndall Report, which tracks network news coverage, has published a list of some of the events that correspondents did not cover on Wednesday. They included the formal presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore, the sentencing of Michael Vick to 23 months in prison for running dogfights, and the first reunion concert of Led Zeppelin in London.

CRITICS SCORE GOLDEN GLOBE TV NODS

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has often raised eyebrows with its selection of movie nominees for its Golden Globes awards, did the same thing -- in spades -- with its selection of TV nominees Thursday. The website Hollywood Today, run by veteran entertainment writer Alex Ben Block, noted that "the big surprise was that [the 18 nods garnered by HBO] didn't include a single nomination for the final season of the hit mob drama The Sopranos." And while ABC counted the most nominations among the broadcast networks, the hits Desperate Housewives and Lost were completely shut out. Matt Roush in TV Guide observed that "any institution that so completely ignores NBC's wonderful Friday Night Lights deserves some spirited jeering."

Brian B.