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Writers Strike Throws Shadow on Hollywood's Season to Honor Itself

The main issue is payment for movies and TV shows that appear on the Internet. Producers say it is too early to know how much profit can be made from the Web, or how it should be divided. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

More than ten thousand film and television writers in the United States have been on strike since November fifth. Work has stopped on many TV shows and movies.

The international market for American entertainment means that Americans are not the only ones watching and waiting for a settlement.

This week, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced nominees for its Golden Globe Awards next month. This is supposed to be an exciting time in Hollywood: the awards season, leading up to the Academy Awards in February.

But tensions are growing. The strike could continue into the New Year.

Talks broke down a week ago between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The writers now accuse the producers of violating federal labor law by breaking off the negotiations. The producers rejected the charges.

The most recent negotiations ended last week when the producers refused to continue talks until the writers drop several demands. Among these is a proposal to include writers of reality shows and animated programs in their union.

But the main issue is this: Writers and producers have been unable to agree about payment for work that appears on the Internet. The download market for TV shows and movies is still small but expected to grow. No one knows exactly how much "old media" will move into new media.

Writers want a share of the profits. But producers say it is too early to know how much profit can be made on the Web, and how that money should be divided. Their proposals would need to renegotiated in the future.

TV shows are already competing for attention with Web sites and video games. Yet the strike could end up costing shows more fans. Without new material, programmers have to fill time with repeats and depend heavily on reality shows and game shows.

The first programs affected were late-night shows. Without writers to keep people laughing, the programs immediately went to repeats. But now, Daily Variety has reported that some late-night shows may be returning by early January -- with or without their writers.

After all, who wants old jokes from hosts like Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart during a presidential campaign?

The dispute may become even more complex once movie and TV directors begin their own negotiations with the producers alliance. The current contract between the Directors Guild of America and production companies ends in June.

The directors decided this week to go forward with negotiations, but not until January. They say they want to give the writers and producers one last chance to return to talks. A writers strike in nineteen eighty-eight lasted twenty-two weeks.

An entertainment industry strike affects a lot of people. Think of all the names in the closing credits of shows and movies. In Los Angeles alone, film and television production creates an estimated thirty billion dollars in economic activity each year.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.