SATURDAY AM UPDATE: I’m told that a federal mediator is coming to the contract negotiations on Tuesday. The WGA says it’s at the suggestion of AMPTP, but the producers say the decision was mutual by both sides. A producers’ source explains: “A federal mediator is assigned at the beginning of any major negotiation and has been talking to the chief negotiators on both sides on an ongoing basis. He can offer to step in with the approval of both sides. Yesterday, the mediator called David Young, and both sides agreed he should come in Tuesday.”

Meanwhile, the walkout is sounding like not just a given, but also immediate. update1.jpg“It’s mind-blowing that, with 5 days left, AMPTP is letting 3 more days pass before resuming talks. They have something more important to do this weekend?” one top WGA member complained to me today. “They’re banking on the WGA not having the stomach for a strike and believe that writers will work without a contract while they take their sweet time hammering out yet another shitty deal.”

FRIDAY PM: Tonight, the WGA Negotiating Committee issued the following pessimistic statement regarding today’s contract negotiations: “This morning, we responded to the package presented yesterday by the AMPTP. We agreed to several of their proposals and withdrew or modified a number of our own proposals in order to narrow the areas in dispute. strikelogo.JPGWe also proposed a smaller working group to address several enforcement proposals made by both sides. The AMPTP caucused for more than four hours and returned with a package that included new rollbacks related to our pension and health funds. They rejected our modified proposals and ignored our working group offer. They then informed us that they are not comfortable meeting at the WGA and insisted that negotiations return to the AMPTP. They declined to meet again until Tuesday. This means only two days remain to resolve the substantive issues of this negotiation before Wednesday night’s contract deadline.”

hollywoodmoguls.jpgTwo hours earlier, this end-of-day statement was issued from AMPTP President Nick Counter: “We worked very hard to narrow the issues and reach an agreement but many issues remain unresolved. We will meet on Tuesday with the federal mediator who has been assigned by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.”

At the start of today’s negotiations, WGA Lead Negotiator David Young gave this opening statement. Boiled down, Young made clear what the overriding issue is for the writers side: New Media and Internet.

hollywood_strike-new-media.jpg“In conversations over the past year, three top executives of your companies made that exact statement to me: Everything depends upon quality content… For this reason, the relationship between creative talent and the industry is also fundamental. You can’t generate quality content without us and we cannot bring that content to the world without you…. For a few decades now there has been a growing feeling among writers that they are slowly being left behind. Every new technology or genre, instead of being treated as a new opportunity for mutual growth and benefit, is presented to us as some unfathomable obstacle that requires flexibility from writers–meaning a cheap deal that remains in place. This happened with home video. It happened with basic cable. It has happened with Reality TV. Now you want it to happen with new media and the Internet.”