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TV Scribes Sue Networks

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Twenty-eight TV writers filed a $200 million federal civil rights lawsuit on Monday against TV networks, entertainment companies and talent agencies, saying that Hollywood has blacklisted them because of their age.

According to Reuters, the lawsuit says that Hollywood has discriminated against individuals over age 40 since the 1980s to the extent that older writers are unable to find work, thusly driven to financial collapse and mental breakdowns.

"Since 1995, my career has spiraled into an abyss," writer Tracy Keenan Wynn told reporters at a news conference in Los Angeles announcing the lawsuit. Wynn added that young TV executives who say that he can't relate to young adults and therefore is a poor choice to write for them usually reject him.

"Was Shakespeare only 15 when he wrote 'Romeo and Juliet'?" said Wynn, a two-time Emmy winner. "Good, experienced writers are capable of writing about anything."

Among those listed as defendants in the lawsuit: Walt Disney Co., Fox Entertainment Group Inc., Time Warner Inc., Viacom, DreamWorks and Universal Television.

So far the defendants in the lawsuit have remained quiet.

Paul Sprenger, the lead attorney in the case, said that he planned to have the lawsuit certified as class action and represent some 5,000 writers. He said that evidence in the case would include a statement by Brandon Tartikoff, the late present of programming at NBC, that Tartikoff wouldn't employ any writer older than 30.

The 81-page lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In related news, the Screen Actors Guild has launched a study on ageism in primetime TV, focusing on casting and the portrayal of characters older than 40, Daily Variety reports. Dr. George Gerbner of Temple University will conduct the study, which will include SAG data on casting diversity.

The results will be announced in the spring.

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