11/20/07

CBS fully-prepared for news writers' strike

Several hundred CBS News staffers represented by the Writers Guild of America have voted to authorize a strike against the company, union officials said Monday.

The vote enables the guild to call a strike at any time, although a walkout is not imminent. A strike could affect CBS television and radio newscasts, both nationally and in four local markets.

The guild’s contract with CBS expired in April 2005, and the guild hopes the vote will steer both sides back to the negotiation table for the first time since January.

In the event of a strike, about 200 employees would be affected on a given day. Non-union staffers would presumably handle the writing and production responsibilities for newscasts. In a statement, CBS said it was fully prepared.

While news anchors and reporters are the on-camera faces and in-studio voices of newscasts, writers and production assistants are responsible for much of the content.

In the event of a strike, “the folks who are the most qualified and the most able will no longer be there to report the news,” Michael Winship, the president of the East Coast guild, said.

He pointed out that the visual appearance of television news would also be affected because graphic artists are included under the CBS contract.

In a statement, CBS called the vote unfortunate and said the company’s contract offer remains on the table.

”We hope there is no strike. Should there be, however, CBS News, CBS Television Stations and CBS Radio remains fully prepared, and ready to continue producing the highest quality news programming for our viewers,” the statement said.

CBS isn’t the only news division with a writer contract conflict. The WGA also represents writers at ABC News who have worked without a contract since January 2005. Negotiations between the guild and ABC stalled one year ago, but a strike authorization vote has not been called. The National Labor Relations Board is reviewing the contract issues, and the guild will not move forward with a strike authorization vote until a decision is reached.

Writers for several local Fox news departments are also represented by the WGA, though their contract has not expired. The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians represent writers for NBC News.

(tvdecoder.blogs.nytimes.com)

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