Striking Writers Reach Tentative Deal

The chief negotiators for the striking Writers Guild of America are recommending that members accept a contract that could have striking writers back on the job as soon as Monday.

Entering a WGA meeting in New York, writer Allen Neuwirth said, "I would like this to be over, like everybody else. Maybe there's one or two lunatics. I'm not one of them."

If the members accept the contract, it is possible that popular television shows from "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), "CSI" (CBS) and "Heroes" (NBC) could go back into production and finish the television season with new programs.

Describing the agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers as "neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve," Patric Verrone and Michael Winship, presidents of the Writers Guild West and East, said, "We believe that continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle this strike."

The agreement guarantees that writers will receive residuals for work that appears on the Internet or other new media such as cell phones. But if the Internet becomes the primary means for displaying what is now known as television, writers could make considerably less money when their work is replayed.

Writers say that residual payments for previous work is the lifeblood that keeps them in the business between jobs.

A potential sticking point is a window of up to 24 days during which television programs that have already aired can be streamed on the Internet as a "promotion" without paying a residual to the writers.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore said he was proud that the writers had stood up to the media conglomerates.

"The fact that it was a bunch of people that got beat up in school because they like to sit around and write in their journals is kind of impressive," Moore said.

Writers were meeting to discuss the deal in New York and Los Angeles.

The three-month strike has shut down most television production and is beginning to affect the movie industry. By some estimates it has resulted in $1.9 billion in lost wages, as everyone from writers to prop men and caterers have been put out of work on both coasts.

The WGA scheduled meetings in New York and Hollywood to present the deal to the general membership.

But the writers already are speaking up on the Internet. A strike captain wrote on the site "United Hollywood": "We've been polling our teams. Some of the Captains have reported that a majority of their teams feel that if the deal isn't right, the strike should continue."

Both the officers of the WGA and the producers have been hoping to end the strike in time to save the end of the television season, as well as the Oscar broadcast. If the WGA negotiators and board sense that the membership will accept the contract, the strike order could be lifted as soon as Sunday.