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19th April
Updated from time to time

American writers strike turns nasty

The ongoing strike by American writers has turned nasty as comedy writers have been targeted for allegedly breaking the strike.

More than 12,000 movie and television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild of America East have been on strike for nearly three months. Prior to that they were on a "go slow" that began in March 2007. Such industrial action has not happened since 1988. That strike lasted five months and cost the entertainment industry an estimated $500 million.

Our Arts correspondent, Michael Dunne, who has been following the story for over a year said yesterday, "The 'go slow' had effectively meant that comedy writers were refusing to write anything funny. When it was programmes like 'Hannah Montana' nobody seemed to notice, but once the writers of 'The Simpsons' got involved suddenly it had an impact."

The move from a 'go slow' to an all-out strike has meant many television programmes have had to stop production altogether, prompting celebration among some viewers as older programmes, perceived as being of better quality, have been repeated.

However, some comedy writers have been inadvertently breaking the strike. One ex-Friends writer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "The situation is getting quite serious. The Writers' Guild is becoming aggressive in its approach. I accidentally thought of a funny caption for a picture in the New York Times last weekend and told a couple of friends, which resulted in my wife receiving a threatening phone call at 3:00 in the morning."

"When I made a witty remark about stem cell research on NBC News my car tyres were slashed," he added. "Everything I write or say on TV from now on will have to be approved by them first. I have been warned that anything other than basic juvenile humour with no real point to it will be censored. It seems like I could be writing for 'Everybody Loves Raymond' for some time."
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