Friday, November 09, 2007

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Writers’ strike controversy for Ellen?
Staff member chastises talk host for crossing picket line to tape show

Access Hollywood
updated 1:13 p.m. PT, Fri., Nov. 9, 2007

LOS ANGELES - Ellen DeGeneres, unlike David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien who have all stopped production of their talk shows in support of the writer’s strike, continues to tape her talk show.

The talk-show host was back at work one day after the strike started, according to Page Six.

DeGeneres explained her decision to continue working during the strike.

“I support (the writers) and hope that they get everything they’re asking for. And I hope it works out soon. In the meantime, people have traveled across the country. They’ve made plans. They’re here. I want to do everything I can to make your trip enjoyable and give you a show,” said the talk show host.

In a sign of support, DeGeneres stood in the aisles of the audience as the show began, instead of entering and taking the stage.

“I want to say I love my writers. I love them. In honor of them today, I’m not going to do a monologue,” said DeGeneres, skipping her usual round of topical jokes and insights.

Not everyone is happy with her decision to work during the strike, including DeGeneres' own staff.

A DeGeneres staffer told Access, “Ellen, you’re no friend of mine, you danced across the picket line!”

The staff member pointed out that DeGeneres missed two shows during the Iggy-Gate puppy controversy, yet she has only missed one show for the writers’ strike.

However, DeGeneres’ show does not compete with late-night programs, which feature Leno, O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel.

Her show competes with other first-run syndicated daytime shows such “Dr. Phil,” “Live with Regis & Kelly” and “Oprah.”

The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) issued this statement today:

Ellen DeGeneres went back on the air this week after honoring only one day of the writers strike. In anticipation of her plans to tape shows in New York City on November 19th and 20th, the Writers Guild of America, East is extremely disappointed to see that Ellen has chosen not to stand with writers during the strike. Ellen’s peers who host comedy/variety shows have chosen to support the writers and help them get a fair contract, Ellen has not. On her first show back, Ellen said she loves and supports her writers, but her actions prove otherwise.

Ellen has also been performing comedy on her show. Even if Ellen is writing those segments herself, since those segments would normally be written by the writers on strike, she’s performing “struck work”. Ellen is violating the strike rules that were clearly explained to all of the comedy/variety shows.

We certainly intend to let Ellen know our dissatisfaction in person if she decides to proceed with the shows she has scheduled in New York on November 19th and 20th. We will also make our voices heard the preceding week if she tries to pre-tape comedy segments on location.

We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn't even stand by writers for more than one day - writers who have helped make her extremely successful.

Every show and film set has a production staff and crew that is beloved by their writers. Ellen's staff is no more important than the rest of the industry. When shows refuse to stand with us they create huge revenue streams for the companies and that prolongs the strike for the thousands of staff and crew members who are noble enough to honor our picket lines. We find this situation hurtful to those people and extremely unfortunate.

The writers did not cause this strike. The companies’ greed caused this strike and it could end tomorrow if they were finally willing to negotiate a fair deal. We ask Ellen to cease doing shows immediately. She should stand by all writers and help us bring this strike to a quick conclusion. We owe that to the thousands of people who are caught in the middle.


I have exclusively not one but two letters from AFTRA (see below) -- one thanking Ellen DeGeneres for her support of the writers and the other contradicting today's WGA East statement attacking the comedienne.

But first, her rep's statement: "Ellen has done nothing to violate the Writers Guild of America agreement. Ellen is competing with other first-run syndicated shows that are delivering original programming like Dr. Phil, Regis and Kelly, and Oprah during the competitive November sweeps period.

Telepictures and Warner Bros have a contractual obligation to the affiliates to continue production and deliver original programming. They asked Ellen to come back to work to fulfill her contractual obligation as host and producer.

"As a syndicated show, the individual stations control when the show airs. If Telepictures does not deliver original episodes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the stations can move the show out of its time periods, or ultimately hold the company in breach of contract.

"Telepictures provides first run programming to stations they don't control. The network controls their own schedule and programming with the late night shows as Leno, Conan, Kimmel etc. (We can't speak to the specific deals at each network or to the specifics of other shows' decisions to stop production)."

I should point out that AFTRA is often accused of having undercut Guild contracts for years and poaching jobs that are traditional SAG jurisdiction. But here is the first letter from AFTRA dated November 8th (and written before today's WGAE statement) expressing "appreciation to you for your invidual act of solidarity shown to the striking writers in their efforts to negotiate a fair contract with the industry producers":


And then today AFTRA wrote a second letter defending Ellen to the WGA East after that organization's attack on the TV host today. This is signed by AFTRA National executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth:


Finally, here is the portion of the Writers Guild's "Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) that addresses Ellen's situation as it now stands: