TO CROSS OR NOT TO CROSS?
As several stars of network TV shows indicated that they may refuse to cross picket lines set up by the Writers Guild of America, the president of the Screen Actors Guild sent out a notice to members today (Friday) warning that refusing to show up on the set is a breach of the guild's contract with producers. "If you are contracted to work on a television series or motion picture that continues to produce while the WGA is on strike, you are obligated by your personal service agreement and the 'No Strike' clause in our collective bargaining agreements to go to work," SAG President Alan Rosenberg said in the membership notice, adding, "It is not reasonable to expect SAG cast members to risk the potentially enormous personal liability that may flow from refusing to work in the absence of a SAG strike." In fact, news reports observed, a premature shut-down of production because of several stars' and "hyphenate" producers' decisions not to cross WGA picket lines could put hundreds of other actors and crew members out of work. The strike continues to draw little sympathy from most of the press, which has suggested that it will result in more financial harm to writers and other members of the industry than can possibly be gained -- even if the writers' demands are met. In today's Washington Post, TV columnist Lisa de Moraes quoted an email sent out by Shonda Rhimes, producer and co-writer of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, in which she explained her decision not to cross the picket lines by saying, "How am I supposed to look at myself in the mirror or look at my child years from now and know that I did not have the courage of my convictions to stand up and put myself more at risk than anyone else?" Commented de Moraes: "No word as yet from the Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice cameramen, costumers, lighting crew, etc. -- some of whom will be laid off if the shows go dark -- in reax to multi-millionaire Rhimes's 'more at risk than anyone else' gag."
CAN ARNOLD TERMINATE THE STRIKE?
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has confirmed reports that first appeared on the Internet site Politico.com that he has been acting behind the scenes to bring striking writers and producers representatives back to the negotiating table with a federal mediator. At a news conference in Sacramento Thursday, Schwarzenegger said, "I'm talking to the parties that are involved because I think it's very important that we settle that as quickly as possible, because it has a tremendous economic impact on our state." In its report, Politico.com said, "In addition to his own words of advice, the governor has had staff members reach out to both sides, as well as to the federal mediator trying to get them to hammer out a deal."
DISNEY CHIEF: STRIKE COULD CAUSE "INDELIBLE DAMAGE"
A day after News Corp. President and COO Peter Chernin said that the writers' strike could actually benefit his company since it has a number of non-scripted and animated shows in the works -- including American Idol and The Simpsons -- Disney CEO Robert Iger said just the opposite -- that ABC could start feeling "indelible damage" from the strike beginning next month. "We're fine through the November sweeps," Iger added. "We are definitely going to have to implement contingency plans if the strike persists." Meanwhile Disney reported a strong fourth quarter in which profits rose by 12 percent. Much of it was attributed to the strong performance of ESPN, which now strongly rivals the broadcast networks on Monday night with its telecasts of Monday Night Football, and the Disney Channel, which set record ratings in the quarter with High School Musical and Hanna Montana. On the other hand, Disney's film business dropped 21 percent versus last year when a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel was dominating the box office.
NBC ENTERTAINMENT CHIEF LASHES OUT AT RIVALS
In a verbal volley fired at his competitors unlike any since Ted Turner's broadsides at Rupert Murdoch in the '90s, NBC Entertainment chief Ben Silverman has taken aim at ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson and Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. In an interview with Esquire, Silverman said of McPherson, "He's a moron," noting that in his earlier role as an agent, he "delivered [to] him a huge hit that he didn't want: Ugly Betty. He hated the show, he didn't want America Ferrera, he didn't understand why I pitched it to him seventeen times and wouldn't stop. Then it delivered despite that." Of Reilly, his predecessor, Silverman said that several of his key programming decisions were "transparently flawed."