Hollywood production is to grind to a halt after negotiators for the screenwriters' union asked its 12,000 members to down tools and set up picket lines.

The Writers' Guild America (WGA) is to hold demonstrations in New York and Los Angeles today after studio representatives refused to meet writers' demands for extra revenue for the reuse of their work when reproduced on DVD, the internet and mobile phones.

While the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers stresses the WGA should "take the necessary steps now to break this impasse", the union argues its demands have been overlooked.

"Every issue that matters to writers, including internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction, has been ignored [in the negotiations]," said the WGA. "This is completely unacceptable."

Harris Goldberg, screenwriter of Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, told the BBC: "The guild has never had the resolve to go the distance.

"They feel that if they don't do it now, they're never going to be able to do it again."

Fellow writer Dave Garrett, told the Associated Press that the strike announcement has been met with an enthusiastic reception.

"There was a unified feeling in the room. I don't think anyone wants the strike, but people are behind the negotiation committee," he said.

Studios have fast-tracked scripts in recent weeks, while increased repeats, news programming and reality TV are expected to fill US TV schedules during any strike.

Topical shows such as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Colbert Report and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno would be hit hard by lengthy industrial action.

Leno quipped about the strike on air on Friday, saying: "They call it the toughest time for comedy writing since those three weeks back in the 1990s when Bill Clinton stopped dating. Remember that?"

The last significant WGA strike - in 1988 - lasted 22 weeks, costing the industry an estimated $500 million.

05/11/2007 10:02:15