AFTRA Reaches Deal With Movie, TV Producers

But With SAG Contract Still a Question Mark, Feature Films Remain on Hold

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LOS ANGELES ( -- The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents most of the shows on cable TV and a handful of prime-time broadcast shows, has reached a tentative three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The deal is subject to approval by AFTRA's National Board and ratification by the union's membership, but is expected to pass.

Progress on new media
AFTRA President Roberta Reardon called the pact "groundbreaking" for its modest cost-of-living gains made in compensation and improved working conditions for performers. She was also careful to praise the deal as one that "establishes AFTRA jurisdiction in the dynamic area of new media" and "preserves performers' consent for use of excerpts of traditional TV shows in new media."

While any contract centers on wages, the issue of how actors will be paid for clips of their work online had been a major sticking point in recent days: Producers had been arguing that it wasn't feasible to seek the permission of every performer in a clip before using it online; actors said that ceding control over their work would leave their reputations in tatters and their destinies in the hands of conglomerates. In the end, the producers blinked. They not only agreed to seek the actors' permission but also acceded to demands for new residual structures for paid downloads, establishing residual rates for ad-supported streaming and the use of clips on the web.

A sunset provision allows both sides to revisit new media at the end of the contract.

SAG has yet to weigh in
Of course, it's an open question as to whether the deal -- which, like previous agreements with the Writers Guild and Directors Guild of America, did not make any progress on DVD royalties -- will be acceptable to the Screen Actors Guild. SAG broke with AFTRA earlier this year and decided for the first time in 26 years to negotiate alone with the producers.

(AFTRA represents prime-time TV dramas like ABC's "Cashmere Mafia" and CBS' "Rules of Engagement" as well as HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but SAG covers most of prime-time TV as well as all film production. Both SAG's and AFTRA's current contracts with producers expire on June 30, 2008.)

Talks between SAG ended and producers were recessed on May 6 with "significant" differences between the two sides, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has said, and talks resumed today after a three-week hiatus. Already, a de facto features strike has occurred, with studios unwilling to start shooting any film that could be shut down by a work stoppage.
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