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WGA reaches deal on comedy shows

June 20, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

The guild representing Hollywood writers announced a deal Tuesday to extend union pay and benefits to four of Comedy Central's top shows, including "The Sarah Silverman Program" and "Mind of Mencia."

More than 30 writers for the Viacom Inc.-owned channel will be covered under a Writers Guild of America contract.

The move came several weeks after writers on six of Comedy Central's top shows signed cards seeking to join the union. The effort is part of a larger organizing push by the union to cover writers who work in basic cable television, reality TV and animation.

"This is an important and historic achievement," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

At Viacom's annual shareholder meeting in New York last month, union activists circulated an open letter signed by various stars and including comedians Carlos Mencia and Sarah Silverman that urged Viacom and Comedy Central to negotiate in good faith with the union. "We are pleased to have concluded agreements for these live-action shows," Comedy Central said in a statement.

Dan Sterling, executive producer of the "The Sarah Silverman Program," praised Comedy Central and MTV Networks Entertainment Group President Doug Herzog for negotiating a "fair and reasonable agreement."

Though the agreement falls short of the union's original goal of a networkwide deal covering all future shows, it extends contracts over most of Comedy Central's top shows. Those include "American Body Shop" and "The Showbiz Show With David Spade."

The guild previously organized writers at Comedy Central hits "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report."

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