Directors Guild Close to Deal With Producers

But Any Accord Reached Over Digital-Rights Compensation May Not Soften Striking Writers

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Word began to leak out late Wednesday that a deal between the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers -- now in their sixth day of talks under a press blackout -- could be imminent as early as this morning.

What such a pact would settle, of course, is far from clear. Because even if the DGA were to reach an accord with producers today or tomorrow over compensation for internet distribution of its members' work, as many insiders expect it will, there are few guarantees that the Writers Guild of America would moderate then its hardline stance and accept similar terms to put an end to its strike, now in its 12th week, which has started to erode broadcast TV ratings and helped scotch the Golden Globes ceremony. And that's not the only glitzy TV special event that's being threatened.

No waiver yet for Grammys
The WGA has indicated it is not inclined to grant a waiver for the upcoming Grammy Awards, scheduled to air on CBS next month, and has been seeking to dissuade Screen Actors Guild card-holding recording artists from attending the Grammys in an effort to derail the telecast.

This is despite a plea filed by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences President Neil Portnow late Tuesday, citing a willingness to have the Grammys' producers, John Cossette Productions, sign an interim agreement of the exact same kind inked by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company to allow his late-night talk show on CBS to air.

Wrote Mr. Portnow, clearly desperate to avoid the same dire fate as the much-ridiculed reduced-to-a-mere-news-conference incarnation of the canceled Golden Globes telecast on NBC: "Executing such an agreement would both allow the talented writers for the show to be compensated fairly for their valuable services and allow us to demonstrate support for the creative community of writers in a tangible and meaningful way."

The WGA's response was to issue a terse press release saying coolly that the request "will be referred to the WGAW Board of Directors for decision."

A WGA spokesman was even more clear: "I wouldn't bet on a waiver, as much as we hate to see artists not get their recognition," Jeff Hermanson told the Reuters news service.

Union support
And that's despite two other creative unions -- the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- backing the Recording Academy and urging the writers guild to let the Grammys go forward.

Already, there are signs that top TV performers are, if not breaking ranks with the writers, at least beginning to question the wisdom of such an unflinching WGA leadership.

Returning to TV for the first time since the WGA went on strike on Nov. 5, Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time" on pay cable channel HBO, closed his show with the following jeremiad aimed at the WGA's brass.

"I think these guys have been lead into a situation where there is no exit strategy, and they may not win this war," Mr. Maher inveighed. "So we're not wrong to criticize it. This is still America."
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