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Guild wins `webisode' dispute

February 22, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

In a victory for the Writers Guild of America, a National Labor Relations Board judge has rejected an NBC Universal complaint that the union illegally hampered the production of Web episodes of such TV shows as "The Office" and "Heroes."

NBC had alleged that the guild pressured "show runners" -- writer-producers who oversee shows -- to refrain from overseeing the writing of "webisodes." The network contended that the work was covered under existing labor agreements, whereas the union contended that writers wanted to negotiate fair terms for the extra work.

The judge ruled that there was no evidence the union "restrained or coerced" the show runners, recommending that the complaint be dismissed.

"While we disagree and are disappointed with the judge's decision, we are pleased it serves to clarify that the guild cannot prevent show runners and writer-producers from supervising the writing of webisodes and other content made for the Internet," an NBC spokesman said.

The issue of how writers are compensated when their work appears on the Internet has been a major source of friction and will be central in contract talks.

"Our focus remains on reaching a fair and negotiated settlement for work in these new technology markets," Writers Guild Executive Director David Young said.

More incendiary is another dispute over ABC's decision to pay residuals for downloads of the TV network's shows from Apple Inc.'s iTunes store under a discounted formula that applies to home video. Talent unions last year griped that ABC violated collective bargaining agreements by imposing the rate without consulting with them.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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