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Disney Disses Striking Writers
January 14, 2008

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Using a contract provision known as a “force majeure clause,” ABC Studios notified nearly two dozen writers and non-writing producers that it was terminating their overall deals as a result of the strike.

Force majeure is a common provision contained in entertainment contracts, which allows a party to terminate without liability due to the occurrence of an extraordinary event or, as even Hollywood contracts call it, an “act of God.”

The Disney/ABC Studios action is the biggest move yet by a studio to up the pressure on striking writers.

“The ongoing strike has had a significant detrimental impact on development and production so we are forced to make the difficult decision to release a number of talented, respected individuals from their development deals,” ABC Studios said in a statement.

Meanwhile a new Pew Poll claims television viewers don’t care about the strike.

According to the poll, 49 percent responded that the strike had not affected their shows at all, while 35 percent said the shows they watched were now airing repeats because of the strike.

About half, 54 percent, didn’t know whether the strike had affected the late night shows, and 70 percent of participants didn't think they had been missing out on any campaign news.

Dr. Phil Flap

In a non-scripted drama, Dr. Phil McGraw has responded to some of his critics.

Lately Dr. Phil has been catching a lot of flack on the Britney Spears matter.

He’s been criticized for making public statements about his hospital visit to the troubled Britney.

After the Spears session, McGraw announced that a special episode of his TV show would focus on how to deal with the pop star’s problems. The episode has since been canceled.

Britney’s parents have let it be known that they are not happy with Dr. Phil. They accused the famed psychologist of violating their trust.

Lou Taylor, a Spears family spokesperson, told NBC’s “Today” show that “the family basically extended an invitation of trust for him [Dr. Phil] to come in as a resource to support them, not to go out and make public statements.”

In a battle of the TV docs, Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of the reality show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” also took a swipe at McGraw through use of a question and did so on an entertainment news show, incidentally.

“My concern was, I don't know that Dr. Phil has a license in California,” Pinsky told “Access Hollywood.” “He's not on staff at Cedars. Is he interfering with the care of another doctor's patient? I don't know.”

McGraw responded to critics on a competing entertainment news program. He told “Entertainment Tonight,” “There's been no betrayal of Britney; I have all the respect in the world for her.”

“I may be the one person in the media that's never said a negative word about that girl, or her family for that matter. My visit to her was private. It was intended to be private from the beginning,” McGraw said.

He added, “There's some spokesperson that's been out there talking to the contrary, and I'm just sitting here saying I know the truth and so does everybody in the Spears camp. Right now people need to be focusing on Britney, not on me.”

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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