CBS has a new contract with 500 news writers represented by the Writers Guild of America. This is the smaller, niggling tangle CBS had with the WGA, which pre-dates the current dispute with the Hollywood writers. The news writers had been working without a contract since 2005; in November they voted overwhelmingly to authorise a strike — but never actually walked out. The threat of a strike, however, cost Katie Couric her only shot at hosting a presidential debate.
This dispute was nothing as sexy the current Hollywood writers strike, which is about how writers get paid in the digital age. The news writers just wanted a raise, and they didn’t want a two-tier wage structure that gave higher raises to those in network radio, and lower raises for local radio.
Who caved? It looks like both sides did on some major issues. The writers wanted retroactive increases from 2005. That didn’t happen. Instead they got a 3.5% increase when the contract is ratified and again in 2009. (The deal expires in 2010.) But it doesn’t look like the network got its two-tier pay structure. Everyone gets the same raise at the same time.
WGA chief Patric Verrone’s quote makes it sound like the deal was strategic move to get CBS back to the table with Hollywood’s writers. “We ask CBS to come back to the table with the will to make a deal with the striking film and television writers,” he said. That sounds like a stretch to us. But it does show that CBS and the WGA can agree to something, which must be positive. Right?
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