Squabbling among writers?: The LAT reports that a number of prominent WGA members are not happy about the way guild leaders handled last week's contract talks - specifically, the decision to refocus the union's efforts on issues that some consider peripheral to the Internet compensation issue. They're pressing union leaders to get the talks back on track before the Directors Guild opens its contract negotiations with the media companies. The directors, you see, might not make all the demands that the writers have made.
Among the writers urging fresh talks are some of the guild's most powerful members, those responsible for the day-to-day operations of popular TV shows, which are quickly running out of original episodes. One group of those show runners met with guild officials Tuesday to air their concerns, and another is set to meet with them today. Members of the negotiating committee plan to meet with strikers on the picket lines, hoping to calm fears. Jeff Hermanson, assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America, West, said the guild had not received many complaints from members and accused the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers of trying to create the impression that there was a schism.
NBC feeling the heat: The fourth-place network is giving advertisers cash back for primetime ratings shortfalls. That's considered unusual (normally networks give advertisers additional TV spots, called make goods). None of this is directly related to the writers strike - the reimbursements are for crummy ratings from about September 2006 to May 2007 - but in a healthier environment NBC might have had a better shot at simply offering make goods. From the WSJ:
Giving money back to advertisers is usually a last resort, say media buyers. "That's my worst-case scenario," says Larry Novenstern, director of national broadcast at Optimedia U.S., a media firm whose clients include T-Mobile and Whirlpool. Mr. Novenstern as of yesterday said he hadn't been approached about reimbursements. He added: "We develop a plan for every client for the year...Now you're telling me all this inventory won't get on the air in the fourth quarter." 'Heroes' was a hit last year, but NBC's new shows this year haven't done as well. It is unclear if other networks will offer reimbursements to advertisers. Media buyers, for instance, noted that the CW has very few open advertising slots for the quarter.
Fed plan fuels market: The Federal Reserve will join with four other central banks to create a kind of money auction in which they would lend at least $40 billion at rates far below what the Fed normally charges. The idea is to inject more cash into the global money markets and help ease the credit crunch. Stocks are solidly up on the news, which comes a day after the Fed lowered interest rates by less than what many on Wall Street had hoped. Meanwhile, the bank troubles continue, with Bank of America and Wachovia warning of more losses. (Bloomberg)
1Q hiring plans trimmed: Only 17 percent of the companies surveyed by Manpower plans to increase hiring during the first three months of 2008. That's the lowest percentage in four years, though the drop from 18 percent during most of 2007 was considered marginal. What's changed is that hiring plans have been reduced for most business sectors whereas year-ago expectations showed weakness mostly in construction. I didnít notice any local breakouts. (Bloomberg)
Budget gap widens: Forget about $10 billion - California's deficit next year is now closer to $14 billion. That, of course, increases the pressure to cut spending, consider tax increases or both (good luck on the higher taxes). State officials base their calculations on the still-sluggish housing market, drops in property tax revenues and increased expenditures from Socal wildfires.(Sacramento Bee)
China puts squeeze on U.S. movies: No official ban has been announced, but government officials have stopped granting permission for American films to be shown in theaters early next year. This could be in retaliation for the U.S. filing an intellectual property rights case that was meant to pressure China to better police the pirating of American movies. China already limits the number of foreign films shown to about 20 a year. (NYT)
But more Chinese tourists: We're talking about 50 percent to 75 percent increase in L.A. more as a result of an agreement that allows more Chinese visitors to visit the U.S. on leisure travel visas. About 110,000 Chinese tourists traveled to Los Angeles last year, spending $109 million. In the past, travel was only permitted to the United States for business, government or educational reasons. Of course, getting those folks here could be another story. From the Daily Breeze:
Only three airlines based in China offer nonstop service out of Los Angeles International Airport. Air China offers seven round-trips each week to Beijing, China Eastern offers seven round-trips a week to Shanghai and Pudong, and China Southern offers five weekly round-trips to Guangzhou, according to LAX officials. No U.S.-based carriers offer direct flights from LAX to China, but airport officials said they hope that will change under the terms of the new agreement. Federal officials rejected a plan earlier this year that would have allowed United Airlines to offer nonstop service between China and Los Angeles, according to airport officials.
Maguire explores sale: Again. The L.A.-based real-estate investment trust is forming a special committee to explore strategic alternatives (corporate-speak for putting your place on the market). Maguire Properties went through a similar mating dance late last year before deciding to remain a public company. Since then the company's stock has been hit hard. Big shareholder JMB Capital has been making noises about a possible sale of the company. (WSJ)
Harbor panels considers truck fees: This would be used to replace or retrofit older, diesel-spewing big rigs with cleaner-burning trucks. The proposal calls for placing a $35 charge on all loaded cargo containers entering or leaving the ports. The Long Beach harbor commission is set to consider the fee proposal Monday, while the L.A. commission will take up the matter Dec. 20. From the Daily Breeze:
The fee proposal is a follow-up to last month's decision to ban older, dirtier trucks from the ports beginning on Oct. 1, 2008, as part of the Clean Trucks Program and the wider Clean Air Action Plan. "Clearly the trucks are a priority to clean up, and I think this fee reflects that priority," said Martin Schlageter, a spokesman for the Coalition for Clean Air. "I think it's appropriate that the owners of the cargo share the burden of that clean-up plan." Truckers have argued that they have been left out in developing the Clean Trucks Program, including devising ways to pay for the $1.8 billion plan.
Coliseum Commission meets today: A counterproposal to keep USC from moving to the Rose Bowl will be discussed. Clearly, there is big-time pressure to come up with a plan that will be amenable to the school. Earlier this week, state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas went so far as to propose legislation to dissolve or restructure the commission. Several of the nine members of the Coliseum Commissioners spoke last week of their interest in crafting a compromise. (LAT)