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Imperioli Joins TV Writers on Wall Street Picket Line

(Photo Gallery from Wall Street Picket Line)

New York – The striking Writers Guild of America literally took its case against corporate America to Wall Street Tuesday, with a picket line that included actor and guild member Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos.

The WGA East set up a picket line at Battery Park in the financial district of Manhattan, as the group moved into the second week of its strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Imperioli was among those carrying a sign in support of the writers’ strike, along with Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live, John Oliver of The Daily Show with Jon Stewartand actor William  Mapother of Lost.

“I’m a member of the WGA,” Imperioli said. “I write sometimes, it’s one of my sources of income. I feel solidarity with everybody here and everyone who makes a living as a writer.”

The actor, who played Christopher Moltisanti on HBO’s acclaimed mob seriesThe Sopranos, also reiterated the guild’s position that writers should be compensated when their material is streamed on the Internet, which has been a key hurdle in negotiations.

“If something shows on the Internet, then we should get a residual and it should be a fair one, and that’s all they’re asking for,” Imperioli said. “And the door has been kind of been slammed in our face. Hopefully, this will be resolved. A lot of people [need to] feed families.”

The WGA claims that while the studios tell the union they are not making money off new media, they tell Wall Street something different.

“We’re down on Wall Street because, of course, it’s the corporate center of America, because it’s where the big corporations who control the media post their record revenues,” said WGA East president Michael Winship, who also manned a picket last week in front of 30 Rockefeller Center, home to NBC. 

“They tell us that there isn’t any money to be made in new media and then they turn around and tell their stockholders that there is and that they’re making money from new media,” he said. “I figure, hey, it’s against the law to lie to your stockholders, so this must be the true story.”

The WGA was handing out leaflets on Wall Street that urged people to write or call media executives to ask them to “give the writers a fair share of the billions your company makes from the content they created.”

The fliers charges that, “The studios’ stubbornness hurts Wall Street. What the writers are asking for is peanuts compared to the millions being lost every day by the corporations’ unwillingness to compromise.” 

The flier included the names of six media executives, and phone numbers for their company’s switchboards. The officials listed were: Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group; Kevin Reilly, president of Fox Entertainment; Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group; Viacom president Philippe Dauman; CBS president Les Moonves; and NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker.

“I don’t think we’ll have DVDs in the future,” Imperioli said. “Everything will be streamed through the Internet or however it is, and we need to bring our contract to a place where it reflects the future…We know that stuff is showing on the Internet, and that’s how the studios and networks are making money, [so] then we need to have a fair share of that, because that’s how it’s always been in the past. If something shows on TV, you get a residual.”

This week, the AMPTP ran a full page ad noting that it does pay writers residuals on digital downloads, with different rates for permanent and pay-per-view downloads, and that it had an offer on the table regarding compensation for video streaming when talks broke off Nov. 4.  The WGA contract expired Nov. 1, and the strike began Nov. 5.

The AMPTP also said it paid $260 million in residuals to members of the WGA West in 2006.

The writers want a higher residual fee for downloads than the AMPTP currently pays, and wants payment for video streaming.

Winship claims that under the WGA’s proposal, its new three-year contract would only cost studios $200 million extra over its term.

The studios say their need the money from new media to offset their production-cost deficits.