Joint Policy Committee Moves Toward Study

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Negotiations between American Association of Advertising Agencies/Association of National Advertisers and the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for a new commercials talent contract are in their infancy, but Douglas Wood, lead negotiator for the AAAA/ANA's Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations, says the committee is set to tap experts agreed upon by both parties to execute studies in alternative compensation. "We're going to issue [requests for proposals] to that group probably in the first week in May," Wood says. "Then we'll sit with the unions and jointly decide what the next step is on that. We'll probably send the RFP out to seven to ten groups." Wood expects results from the experts in around a month, leaving nearly four full months for parties to negotiate before the contract expires on October 29.

While agreement between the groups that the contract merits analysis by an independent body is promising, most sources say dramatic change in the structure of the 50's-era contract—one that has kept up with new changes in the industry and media landscape by bolting on additional compensation channels—seems unlikely. Despite talk of extension of the contract in light of the study, Jeffrey A. Greenbaum, a partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz who specializes in advertising law, says there are more immediate concerns. "If the consultants come up with something [in June] that recommends a fundamental change in the way talent is compensated for commercials, that's going to be huge news," Greenbaum says. "It's going to be a big deal and it's going to spark a lot of discussion."

The effects of the 2000 strike are still being felt in the commercials industry—something that will likely impact the tenor of negotiations between the union and the industry. "I think that the union and the industry have learned a lot about how to work together, and they're going to come up with a reasonable solution," Greenbaum says. "The strike wasn't good for anyone. Everyone suffered during that strike, and I think that no one wants to see another strike."
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