CW: Top Model Episodes Not Unfinished

The CW Thursday denied claims made nearly a month ago by Writers Guild of America (west) that most episodes of America’s Next Top Model remain unfinished because of a strike by writers seeking union representation.

In a memo, The CW sought to reassure affiliates the labor action will have no impact when the new netlet launches Sept. 20 with a two-hour premiere of one of its biggest holdover hits from the defunct UPN.

A dozen writers on the show walked out July 21 during post-production on the upcoming cycle, marking the start of an “open-ended” strike against the program.

John D. Maatta, COO of The CW, insisted in the memo to 200 affiliates that principal photography on the seventh cycle of the Tyra Banks series slated for Sept. 20-Dec. 6 has already been completed.

Editors belonging to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) have worked on the episodes in post-production. Maatta said the episodes are slated to be delivered on schedule and air in a regular pattern.

The CW memo laid out plans to develop a “contingency plan”—which some took to mean bringing in replacements for the striking writers—in the event the labor dispute has not been resolved by early November, when pre-production begins for the next edition of Model, which is slated to air from March-May 2007.

“Whatever steps necessary will be taken to continue delivering episodes that maintain the show’s high standards,” Maatta said.

Maatta went on to note that–contrary to the WGA letters—Model producers are not refusing to negotiate with striking workers. In a missive to affiliates dated July 26, WGAw Executive Director David J. Young said, “The producers…have told us that all decisions in this matter are being made by the network.”

Young urged affiliates in his earlier letter to “engage management…to expeditiously intervene and resolve this situation in order to ensure the successful launch of the new network.’

He also told them, “Most of the episodes remain unfinished. Many of the writers of (Model) have worked on the show for several seasons and are concerned for the quality of this season if the show is produced without them.”

On Thursday, Maatta responded, “The National Labor Relations Act has tried and true procedures that mandate the methods by which a union may engage with employers to commence collective bargaining. They have simply asked that the WGA follow the procedures established by law to organize employees.”

The WGAw issued a response Thursday, noting its earlier letter was meant to be “a confidential communication from the WGA to CW affiliates about the strike.”

The statement continued, “Maatta's letter clearly shows that the CW is on the defensive and having to address the concerns of nervous affiliates.”