DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS SIGN PACT; WRITERS NEXT?

All eyes turned to the Writers Guild of America Thursday after the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers concluded a three-year agreement that significantly raised the directors' residuals payments for shows sold on the Internet. In a statement, DGA President Michael Apted said, "This was a very difficult negotiation that required real give-and-take on both sides. In a separate statement, alliance President Nick Counter said, "Both parties were determined to focus on the core issues that are most important to all of us." Counter's remarks appeared to be a jab at the writers, who had insisted on putting demands for jurisdiction over reality shows and animation on the negotiating table, matters the AMPTP had refused to consider. Under the agreement with the directors, the studios and production companies will pay a residual of about $600 whenever ads are sold on a one-hour program that is streamed over the Internet for more than 17 days. Additional payments are spelled out for programs that are streamed for more than 26 weeks. The deal also essentially doubles the residual rate for paid downloads of TV shows and movies, based on distributors' grosses, after the first 100,000 downloads (50,000 in the case of feature films). The New York Times reported today (Friday) that a $2-million study commissioned by the DGA determined that producers will continue to earn a negligible amount of revenue from digital media until at least 2010. Thursday's agreement also calls for doubling the residual rate on DVDs. Nevertheless, the WGA has made it clear that it will act independently in negotiating a deal with the studios and will not be bound by the terms of a DGA deal. Asked about the deal, Writers Guild of America West President Patric Verrone said cryptically, "I don't want to prejudge it." Doug Allen, executive director of the Screen Actors Guild, which is also due to begin talks with the producers, said that he had only seen a press release and wanted to see "more specifics." Nevertheless, many analysts commented that it was unlikely that the writers would be able to negotiate a separate deal that would be more lucrative than the one with the directors.

SAG-AFTRA FEUD ESCALATES

As if labor difficulties between the unions and the producers were not unsettling enough, a dispute between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists became more rancorous Thursday after SAG leaders sent messages to the membership urging that they vote to allow the union's board to terminate a joint bargaining agreement with AFTRA negotiated 27 years ago. The message accused AFTRA of launching an "assault" on contracts for basic cable "by offering producers cheaper contracts with less money for actors, usually with 10-15 free exhibition days, effectively eliminating residuals for one year after an episode airs." AFTRA has said that SAG demands are unrealistic and that numerous showings are required before an original cable drama can attract an audience the size of a broadcast network's.

DATELINE PRAISED, CONDEMNED AT AWARDS PROGRAM

Columbia University, which hands out the annual Alfred I. duPont Awards for Journalism Excellence each year, presented one award Wednesday night to NBC's Dateline and another award to a Texas TV station for a feature that condemned the NBC magazine show. Dateline received the award for an August 2006 feature titled "The Education of Ms Groves," about a neophyte Atlanta teacher's struggles with her first-grade class. Shortly thereafter, an award was presented to Dallas TV station WFAA, an ABC affiliate, for a feature titled "Television Justice," which condemned Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series. TV Newser reported Thursday that several NBC executives, including NBC News President Steve Capus, walked out of the ceremony before the WFAA award was presented, then returned afterwards.

YOU SAY NUH-VAH-DAH, I SAY NUH-VAA-DAH

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams acknowledged Wednesday night that he and other reporters on the program have sometimes mispronounced Nevada as "Nuh-VAH-duh, rather than -- as the locals do -- Nuh-VAA-duh -- something that angers Nevadans who flooded the network with complaints. In a lead-in to a story by George Lewis, Williams said, "We haven't always said it the same way and there is a correct way." Lewis then warned presidential candidates campaigning in the state that they had better pronounce the state's name correctly or lose votes. Valerie Fridland, a sociolinguist at the University of Nevada, Reno, told the Reno Gazette-Journal, "News anchors make a big effort to correctly pronounce the names of places around the world, so when they don't do it in their own country, people get upset." The Associated Press quoted Josh Guenter, pronunciation editor for the Merriam-Webster dictionary company as saying, "People in other states have become upset, but I've never heard of a national flap over it like this." [Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to master the pronunciation of "California."]

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.